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Dublin: 12°C Thursday 22 April 2021

Opinion: Yes, we're still on coronavirus lockdown in China, weeks later

Irishman Greg McDonough shares his family’s experience while housebound in China during the Covid-19 virus outbreak.

Greg McDonough

HELLO AGAIN FROM the dark side of the planet, where things are degenerating at a reasonably alarming rate. 

When asked to write a piece at the beginning of this month, I was still happy-go-lucky, my attitude more ‘’sure ’tis all a crazy experience” than “help me, this is a nightmare”.

But, two weeks of effective isolation can change everything. We are not so happy-go-lucky anymore, and while things are still ticking along here in this deserted city, we feel a distinctly more sinister atmosphere this week.

Currently, we are confined to our neighbourhood of about 30 apartment buildings on the outskirts of a small town in Anhui province, next door to Hebei, where the virus emerged. 

It is newly built and only a handful of apartments are occupied, so we are effectively confined to a ghost town. Walking around, whenever you can manage it, is surreal. It is reminiscent of a boomtown after the gold rush has passed.

greg china "One person per household per day is allowed out to shop", writes McDonough.

The pictures I share here show this ‘enclosure’ as well as a few shots of a nearby sports area, where we are no longer allowed to go. Actually, not true, one person per household per day is allowed out to shop in ever-depleting, mostly closed shops. 

Thankfully, the food supply has not yet become an issue, but we have reached the stage where choice is now a luxury. I yearn for a sliced pan and a gallon of full cream milk. 

There is a lot of conflicting data on this virus to sift through, but I have time, lots of time. My gut feeling is that the peak of this particular coronavirus, the newly named space-age-sounding Covid-19 is upon us. But hey, I’m no expert.

The numbers of afflicted continue to grow, but it does seem new infections are slowing, which is encouraging. It may be undignified to reduce such a crisis to numbers, but what can we do.

For us folk in the dark zone, it is simply a matter of persistence, as nerve endings fray and tempers occasionally flare, but it’s all part of our surreal reality, for now. 

The primary objective remains to get through the coming weeks or months with sanity and body intact.

Thankfully, we can get out for a daily run around here with the limited population.  If we were at our primary home in Hefei there would be five times as many people in the same space. China is a crowded country, so we are lucky to have ‘some’ space.

Our relentless routine

On a normal week, pre-coronavirus, we would be up by 7 am, but here we rise about 10 am and have breakfast, simply because there is no real reason to get up.

I usually have supper around 6 pm, and no lunch. This is not out of any magnanimous sacrifice, I’m simply not burning much energy. 

Rudy, my wife is the same, but Jojo, who is 2.5 years old still eats and drinks his milk like a man on a mission. His little legs do about 600 laps of the apartment a day, as well as our usual sortie outdoors when he runs around like a super-charged tornado. We spend much of the rest of the day discussing fire engines, water trucks and diggers.

Spider webs are also a big news item recently for him.

Thankfully, he is blissfully unaware of the severity of our predicament, but, the other day he did have some questions as to why we couldn’t go out through the main gate of our complex.

Even at two years of age, he is twigging that something is not quite right. He’s still chatting about volcanoes and shouting “nee naw, nee naw”, so it’s a relief he’s not overly affected.

greg son McDonough's son is still unaware of the virus lock-down, but does ask why they can't go beyond their apartment block.

Thinking of home

I should have flown to Ireland this week via Hefei, Beijing, Frankfurt and then on to Dublin, but I, like many other of Lir’s far-flung children remain in limbo.

I’ll make up for it in the Summer, which will be worth waiting for.

There are several online groups where we share information and keep each other going, a sign that really, the Irish spirit is a tough cookie to break. Here, we share anecdotes and moan about how frustrated we are at our situation.

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Nonetheless, we shall persist.

David Attenborough and Stephen Fry keep me entertained. We watch programmes on YouTube and other various Chinese sites. Thankfully, the internet is still going, but it’s slow.

Some online poker with my fellow stranded paddies is also keeping me sane.

Just about.



About the author:

Greg McDonough

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