Beijing Life for a Foreigner Amid the Coronavirus Lockdown |LivingHere

Wafaa Ezzat

Wafaa Ezzat, Social Media Copywriter and Specialist of China Report ASEAN, CIPG. She has been living and working in Beijing for 7 years. 

The Chinese capital, like other cities far from the epidemic’s center, has imposed restrictions and shut down public spaces, in a bid to manage the spread of coronavirus but what’s it like for those expats living under the lockdown?

It’s been almost a month since Wuhan, a city of 11 million people in central China, was placed under quarantine, and my husband and I, like many millions of other people in China, have confined ourselves to our apartment building here in Beijing.

As the lockdown wears on, days are starting to blur together. Every morning, I reach for my phone as soon as my eyes open, and check the dashboard tracking coronavirus new confirmed cases, number of new deaths, and number of recovered and discharged patients, the numbers are starting to look much better than before. I pore over the latest news for an hour or two, torn between fear and hope, new measures to stem the coronavirus’s progress, new speculations and many scenarios. But everything feels far away from my 10th-floor apartment.

Within these windows and walls, we were cocooned in our own little world. The only times we venture beyond our apartment door is to pick up deliveries or to walk our dog. Riding down the elevator that smells sharply of disinfectant, always a good reminder to wash my hands every time I walk through the door. Feeling isolated from the outside world, tech has become my lifeline, providing a conduit for my shopping, work and social activity.

“Should we leave?”

“Should we leave?” I remember that first time I asked myself this question, it was during the early weeks of the outbreak when nothing was clear and all I can see is people panicking on social media. Despite the calm façade I was showing, you could still feel my anxiety simmering darkly, and it got much worse after all these calls we received from our worried families and friends urging us to come home while we still can.

But I kept thinking why are we even considering fleeing? Is a few weeks’ confinement in the comfort of our own home really a good reason to panic and run away? The answer is simply NO! With all that’s happening, it still isn’t a good enough reason for me to leave Beijing and go home, because Beijing is HOME…or it’s been one for the past seven years, this city has been and will always be my second home, where I’m happily living with my small family (my husband and my dog).

If this doesn’t sound entirely logical for me to be so keen to stay, then maybe the following reasoning will do. Beijing is in good shape, and the situation seems to be going in a positive direction and on its way to be under control in the upcoming few months, grocery stores are stocked, we are getting everything delivered without any issues. Even the frenetic, ice-in-their-veins food and package couriers are required to wear masks at all times and their temperatures are checked daily to make sure they’re healthy.

My Beijing, My Beijing

Our residential community has also endorsed a “no outsider” policy, which means no strangers are allowed in, and all residents are requested to fill out some registration forms at the guards office, then you’ll be given an entry/exit pass that you’re required to declare every time you wish to get back in, along with the regular temperature and mask checks. This has been widely adopted by most residentials compounds and villages in the city.

Fliers from the Beijing government have been posted on every door in our apartment building, urging everyone to take necessary precautions. Residents were encouraged to avoid crowded places, stay in as much as possible, and seek out medical help in a timely manner if they show any symptoms of fever, cough, etc. By all appearances, most Beijing residents have accepted the official advice and simply stayed home.

As for work, we’ve been asked to work from home till further notice. Everything seems to be going as normal, other than we’ve stopped changing out of our pajamas. Working remotely for long periods of time, made me see how getting ready to go to the office every morning can be an actual blessing; that I could have never thought of if it wasn’t for the lockdown!

Unlike the pin-drop-quiet streets outside my apartment, my virtual social life has been actually busy. My day is mostly spent on various social media platforms, gathering news from different sources and posting the latest updates about the epidemic outbreak. But it wasn’t until today when it suddenly came to my attention how the coronavirus has been causing more damage than I’ve ever imagined. In addition to the human suffering, the current coronavirus outbreak has also sparked rumors, misinformation, false alarms and conspiracy theories. As someone who works in media, part of me felt responsible to help correct these misconceptions and provide a true picture of the current situation.


A Ray of Hope

Chinese people are without a doubt fighting a very serious battle against the epidemic, especially those in Wuhan, I’ve been watching frontline medics in Wuhan fearlessly risking their own lives to save others. I’ve seen the strict measures of the Chinese government to prevent and control the spread of the viral pneumonia, not only protecting its own people, but also protecting people all over the world.

The openness, transparency, responsible manner, and the timely effective measures that China has been displaying through this critical time has left me with all the faith and confidence in the capability of China to win the battle against the outbreak of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus.

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