In China, the news is victorious.
Wuhan, a city of 11 million and the epicenter of the virus, is open once more. After 9 weeks of lockdown, starting on January 23, this Hubei province metropolis has survived the worst. Virus cases petered off. Deaths subsided. Hospital beds emptied out. Exhausted staff began to sigh in relief.
Recently, it was announced visiting medical personnel to that area were no longer needed. A video of their exit went viral, showing Chinese healthcare workers, who had been flown in from all over the country, leaving in busloads to return to their homes as millions of citizens lined the streets to send them off. Crowds cheered, flags waved, people bowed in appreciation, and thousands emotionally sobbed, both for joy and and for sorrow at loved ones lost.
Despite the jubilation, masks were worn by everyone, showing the vigilance which is still in effect, even across the country.
Fear of a second wave has caused China to close its borders to those abroad. A few weeks ago, international flights continued to bring overseas’ visitors and Chinese citizens back into the country …. and the virus came along with them.
Despite the mandatory 2-week quarantine, with strict and careful swoops of passengers directly off incoming planes into quarantine facilities, hundreds tested positive for the virus. Many showed symptoms as soon as they departed from the airplane. Due to this, the Chinese government did what any government would do to protect its people: Complete and swift isolation.
No flights coming in from virus hot-spot countries. Individuals, such as myself, who hold valid visas, are banned from entering, an order put into effect on March 28. Temporarily, foreigners coming in from outside China are having their work permits and residence cards suspended until further notice.
I personally did not expect a return to China would be possible until July or August, when I hoped my country would begin to show signs of a Wuhan victory, but at present, I fear even that is wishful thinking. It might be a year until this calms down, to the point where China is accepting outsiders on a regular basis.
News from Luzhou
In my city of 5 million, where only 25 virus cases were reported (all recovered now), the lockdown was lifted several weeks ago after 5 weeks of “stay-at-home” edicts. Masks are still being worn but not to the mandatory level of before. People are traveling to the countryside to enjoy the beauty of spring. Families are now going out in clusters to walk through parks and supermarkets, a luxury where, before, only one family member at a time was allowed to go out. This cut down on the number of individuals who might be exposed to the virus. From the success of Wuhan and other cities, such draconian decrees seem to have been life-saving measures.
Recreation and fitness centers are slowly re-opening. Restaurants are filling with patrons, and people stuck at home for days on end are now fully enjoying the company of friends and neighbors alike.
There are also murmurs that schools in Luzhou, and all of Sichuan, will re-open after Tomb-Sweeping Festival passes. I am not yet certain if that includes colleges and universities but the primary and secondary schools are rumored to have students return to the classroom April 7.
Of course, I am overjoyed that China has seen this epidemic through with such miraculous results and is now in cautious rejoicing mode. What seemed doom-and-gloom a month ago, with no light at the end of the tunnel, has dissipated. The country and its people pulled together in an unprecedented effort of unity. Now China has become the expert in helping other countries analyze their own current situations and react appropriately.
On WeChat, I look at pictures my Chinese students, friends and colleagues send of their current lives. With isolation bans lifted, the festive spirit that engulfs everyone is so apparently seen and felt in their postings.
As I said, I am so very, very happy China is on the mend and I ache to be with them.
But in America, the epidemic has hardly begun. The virus is just ramping up, with cases and deaths rising, and major cities across the country preparing for worst-case scenarios.
We pray, we support, we comfort, and we root ourselves in place to brace for the long haul.
From Marshall, here’s wishing you have faith, have promise, have strength and, above all, stay well.