I flew back to China for a short holiday to spend time with family during my maternity leave, but that holiday turned into something very different. Lockdown started over Chinese New Year at the end of January and I’ve been here ever since. I have a little boy who is one year old now. Thankfully, my husband flew into China to join us just before the restrictions started. Our flight back to the UK has been cancelled because of Coronavirus. We’re living with my mother-in-law in Chengde city. During the New Year the authorities closed the entire city. On the news we could see that more and more people were getting infected from Wuhan, where the virus started, so they closed access to villages and towns in Hebei province and stopped people coming in or out.
What will life be like post self-isolation? Will we all run into the streets celebrating the minute it’s over? Will weddings and parties resume and life go back to normal? Or will life look very different on the other side, with us all adjusting to a new reality? Min, a 26 year-old-personal shopper travelled from her home city, Manchester, to her native China in October 2019, only to find herself in total lockdown without a way back to the UK. Here she explains what life is actually like post-lockdown.
We found out the lockdown had been partially lifted after three months on the news. But that didn’t mean that everyone suddenly ran out into the streets and started having a party.
People are still scared to go out, even now, if you walk down the street, you will still see people wearing masks and gloves. You don’t know who you’re talking to. In England people aren’t taking the masks that seriously, but here we are obsessed with them. No one goes out without wearing masks or gloves.
Until recently, you couldn’t even get into supermarkets if you didn’t wear a mask. They’d check your temperature first before entering and you’d need to have your ID. I actually feel safer with these measures because I feel I know who’s around me. Culturally I’m not sure people in the UK would be willing to have their ID scanned before they go into a supermarket.
But now, slowly, people are trying to get back to normal and back to work, though a lot of people are still working from home if they can and are still behaving as though they’re on lockdown. In the cities, restaurants and shopping malls are starting to open and welcoming people in though it’s taking time for people to feel comfortable to go shopping again.
People are definitely interacting more now, but not like they were before. Weddings and big parties, for example, are still restricted to a small number of people. My cousin got married and had to have the ceremony at home only with her close family and I couldn’t go, which was difficult.
We all go for walks daily, but only for a short time and parks still aren’t open, so it’s difficult for families with young children. It’s overwhelming for me. I’m lucky, I don’t know anyone who has died from the virus and my family was all fine, thank god. But one of my friends has been in Wuhan since January. She has not been out of her front door and her area is still closed. There are still areas in complete lockdown.
I’m glad we made the decision to come back to China when we did. We’re not sure what the status is in the UK at the moment. In China it’s quite safe now. Chengdu city has not been as badly hit compared to big cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. My city only had seven people infected with coronavirus during the lockdown until today. All of them are healed and have gone home. We see the news every day and it tells you how many cases or fatalities there are. In China in the past few days there have only been a few new cases of people getting infected. If I was in the UK now, I would be scared because the UK is not taking this as seriously as China. When the news was announced in China, everyone stayed home.
Before all of this I had built a really good life in the UK. I had a good job as a personal shopper for Harvey Nichols in Manchester and Birmingham, good colleagues and great friends. I met my husband and built my family in the UK over the past 15 years. My plan is to hopefully return to the UK once things get back to normal. My maternity leave is ending soon so I need to get back to work.
I want everyone to take this really seriously. This is not a normal cold. This is different. The person that is carrying the virus often doesn’t even know it themselves. It stays in your body for 14 days and you may have no symptoms. We don’t want the UK turning into the next Italy. 2020 has not started well for anyone. I just want 2020 to go quickly so that we can get to another New Year.