March 2, 2020 The Fortieth Day of the Wuhan City Closure
Our calendar is still on February. If I weren’t writing a diary every day, I might even forget what day it is. Each day is a repeat of the previous one. It seems like we are stuck frozen in time as if we were falling into a black hole.
I started working last week. The company wants each department to video conference once a day. Fortunately our department head isn’t someone who like to just go through the motions. So we had two daily video conferences but then gave up on them. But I guess that she worries about her appearance in a video conference and feels getting all made up for it just isn’t worth the trouble.
Our two company colleagues who had been infected are now completely cured. Their street committees even gave them a certificate stating that they are free of medical observation. Chatting with colleagues recently I discovered that having only two colleagues infected means that our company got off lightly. Many companies have colleagues who have passed away. No matter when this epidemic ends, I don;’t think the tears shed because of the sudden onslaught of this virus will dry anytime soon.
The deceased are now gone but as for the survivors, the most troublesome problem we have now is getting paid our salaries. If we put aside the days of the Lunar Festival holidays, we have spent a full month as hermits. Paying salary will depend entirely upon the kindness of the company. This makes me feel a bit like a fish on a cutting board.
Today I happened to hear that another friend has been infected. The symptoms – cough, fever and panting are all too clear. A CT scan showed lesions in the lungs but the nucleic acid test was negative. I’d guess that because of that the case won’t be counted among the “confirmed” cases. He hasn’t been admitted to the hospital but is doing self-quarantine at home. Fortunately he hasn’t infected other family members and the disease seems to be under control and he seem nearly cured now. He told me that medical expanse work like this: two nucleic acid tests are free of charge; the first CT scan he had to pay for himself; his community registered his case free of charge; he has to pay for all the medicine himself. Fortunately he has full medical insurance coverage so the financial burden will not be too great.
I was concerned before that the accuracy of the nucleic acid test is just 30% – 50%. Who knows how many “fish that escaped the net” there have been. Fortunately my friend only had mild symptoms. If he had gotten worse, he wouldn’t even have qualified to be admitted to the hospital. Even more fortunate is that none of his family members have been infected. If they had been, how could any of this make sense.
I saw an article from Nanfang Renwu weekly on the Weibo microblog. Interviewed was a homeless person who stranded in Wuhan. Here are some excerpts from the report:
- “1. I bought a hard seat ticket back to Yiwu at 6 pm on January 23rd. I only wanted to transfer overnight in Wuhan. I didn’t know until I got to the train station that Wuhan had been closed at 10 AM that day. The first I heard about the epidemic in Wuhan was from a street vendor who was hawking face masks.
- Hotels prices went up day-by-day. The hotel cost 130 RMB on the first day, 170 RMB on the second day, and more than 200 RMB on the third day. I can only switch hotels. Once the hotel price exceeds 200 RMB, I move to a cheaper one. I stayed in four different hotels in all.
- I don’t know where to go. I walked down the street, went into a park and fell asleep on a bench. A security guard woke me up saying, “You aren’t allowed sleep here!” Later I realized what he meant. Sitting was allowed but not lying down.
- Many supermarkets are closed. If I can enter the supermarket, I buy instant noodles. If I can’t find boiling water, I chew them. One time I got lucky once and found a supermarket that was open so I went in right away to buy bread.
- I called the emergency number several times and they said they can’t handle my kind of problem. I went online to the Wuhan Notice Posting Bar website and posted messages 5 or 6 posts but never got a reply. Everyone must think that I’m a liar.
- After wandering for about a week and I caught a cold. My head was dizzy and very painful, and my throat was even more painful but I had no money so I had to call my wife. I told her that this time I am done for. She immediately sent me 200 RMB. I forced myself to work to a pharmacy and bought some cold medicine. Without boiled water, I couldn’t dissolve the powdered medicine so I poured granules into my mouth, swallowed them, and then swallowed a few mouthfuls of mineral water.
- I got a call from a friend. I owed him $ 50,000. His mother suddenly got cancer and needed money. I had to borrow 6,000 yuan from another friend to repay part of the debt.
- On that snowy day in Wuhan, the snow kept falling right on my face. Water was dripping everywhere and there was no place to lie down. I walked up onto an overpass. I looked down at my own shadow below. I saw my own thoughts of suicide reflected down there.
- In my wanderings, I have lost all sense of time. Somebody asked me yesterday how old I was. The thought just occurred to me. Today is February 5th. My birthday. I am 48 years old. What can I look forward to? I on the road ahead there appears some hot water I can drink, I’ll be satisfied.
- A person in uniform took us to a nearby hotel where we stayed. After a good night’s sleep, I got up and looked in the mirror. My hair had turned half-white during these days in Wuhan … “
I have been thinking about the issue of the protection of detained people and homeless people during the city closure. Why did it take the government one month after the city closure to take action on this? I saw someone on Weibo microblog saying “There are so many things to do so we should take them slowly one at a time”. People like that even expect to be complimented “You have worked so hard under such difficult conditions!”
People here praise and fawn over the authorities yet they treat defenseless ordinary people very badly. I’ve never accepted this abnormal psychology of kiss up and kick down.
During this month, I have often wonder just what about my life is worth recording? Although I live in the epidemic area, neither me nor my family has been infected and our food and water supplies are still is good shape. Whatever difficulties we have can be overcome. What’s the point of me writing about all this?
It wasn’t until I saw that personal interview with the Wanderer that I finally believed I understood. I need to record and remember these things. I’m live in the epidemic area. I need to record the pain and despair close at hand as if it has had become engraved in my own heart. In the coming months and years I will need these things to remind myself not to become a numb and selfish person. I will need to remember this pain so as to remind myself in the years to come not to be a numb and selfish person.
Being an empathetic person may well be the greatest contribution I can make to this world.