Coronavirus situation in Suzhou

Happy Chinese New Year! Well, not so happy in China. As I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, China is facing a new virus that originated in the city of Wuhan and has now spread throughout the country and even abroad. As of 9 pm China time today, January 27th, there are more than 2800 confirmed cases and 5800 suspected cases. 81 people have died so far and 56 recovered. I started hearing news about the virus maybe 3 weeks ago, but things didn’t take a major turn until last Thursday, when Wuhan was put on lockdown and public transportation stopped. However, because it was right before the New Year holidays, many people had already left Wuhan and the virus spread everywhere.

 

 

My holidays started last Thursday and we were not planning to travel anywhere, if anything just to Wuxi, the closest city. However, as I work from home, I did intend to spend some time outside, see some friends, go to Ikea, see the CNY decorations in the malls… Bad luck, Marta! Because of the virus, the official recommendation is to stay at home and avoid going out unles absolutely necessary. But I can’t really complain, because at least we were prepared to spend the holiday here and our pantry and freezer were full. Imagine all the people (possibly millions) that were planning to go back to their hometowns and had to change their plans at the last moment, with many grocery shops already closed for the holidays. This video was shot by a Wuhan vlogger 24 hours after the lockdown was announced and it shows the empty streets and the crazy lines in the supermarkets. Also, let’s not forget about all the people (again, possibly millions) that were going to have their annual reunion with their family to spend the holidays. In China, many people from villages or smaller cities work in a bigger city and only see their parents or children once a year.

So, how has the situation been for us in Suzhou? Until last Wednesday we didn’t worry much about the virus, but after the Wuhan lockdown panic started to spread. People don’t talk about anything else in WeChat and other social media (well, with the exception of Kobe Bryant’s death today; he was very popular in China). Yesterday it was announced that the holidays have been extended until February 3rd at the very least (we were supposed to go back to work this Friday). However, before the central government announced this extension, the Suzhou government had already communicated that companies were not allowed to go back to work until the 9th, so now I don’t know which date prevails. Schools cannot start the new term before February 17th. I think these dates might be subject to change depending on how the situation unfolds these next few days. This is totally unprecedented, China never gives away holidays for free and we always have to work on the weekend before the CNY holiday and the October week off.

Empty streets in Suzhou.

 

For now there have been 8 confirmed cases in Suzhou and a lot of rumours. On Thursday I had a date with a friend to bring the kids to a playground, but that was the day things took a turn for the worse and she cancelled our meeting. On Thursday evening we went to a restaurant to have dinner with our friends who came from Taiwan. We were all wearing masks which we took off to eat, of course, haha, but the restaurant staff wore masks at all times. After that day we followed the recommendation of not going outside and it has been a bit boring. I guess I’m probably gaining weight too thanks to all the festive food and to not being able to walk too much. I’ve been reading more than usual and also watching some tv (we are currently watching Watchmen). But most of the time is spent trying to entertain Baby A. and checking the news on our phones. We are also getting up quite late because, after all, we don’t have much to do… This afternoon we sneaked out for a little while to visit my husband’s grandma. The streets were quite empty and most of the few people who were outside had masks on.

Yummy pastries someone sent us from Beijing.

 

Are these the worst holidays ever? Probably. At least we won’t starve, but I cannot guarantee we won’t go crazy from being holed up for so long! Please let me know if you have any suggestions of activities to do at home with a 17 month old!