Life under COVID-19 pandemic

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Chandrachur Paul in Shanghai (China)

 The author lives and works in Shanghai. He shares his experience with The Background. This is the first part of a two part article.

These days, “The Chinese Virus” is a popular phrase going around. In fact, it is a perfect time to batter the second largest economy of the world with every possible– impossible theory, geopolitics & assumption. Anyone tries to take a positive looks on China`s effort, is destined to get burnt & take the heat across the globe. In fact China did lots of right thing in a very timely manner while most of the nations were unable to do so. Overall Asia has done pretty well, be it Singapore or South Korea or Taiwan to handle this ongoing pandemic.

Globally, almost 2.9 million corona virus cases have been reported and China is known as its epicentre, has attributes that goes for & against it. I have seen how the country operates, its fast paced development, slower opening up of the market to the world.  It’s so different what we see in typical media reporting especially in India.  China is staidly moving toward its normalcy. Let’s look at the background how the country is dealing with the virus especially in Shanghai, the mega city of the world with its 23 million residents.

I, being an Indian, definitely observe things here with more skepticism and very much with a conspiracy theory orientation on the back of my mind. I am trying to find answers for those questions which are frequently being asked by my friends, relatives or in social media.

The Situation in Shanghai

Officially, it is reported, Shanghai has 524 positive cases while the capital city Beijing has 587. We have been watching Taiwan with the lowest infection rate. It is only 900 kilometre away from Shanghai. It has less infection due to early detection, early lock down and isolation. The same logic applies for Shanghai and Beijing too. Surely, we are more comfortable giving credit to the island, whereas the mainland actually showed the way.

Shanghai was regarded as the next epicentre after Wuhan around January 10, if the containment of the disease was not done in time. More than 170,000 people were immediately identified who had a Wuhan connection, travelled from Wuhan to Shanghai via WeChat app tracking. Quick decision and execution was the key to success; hundreds of fever clinics were established, and mass testing was declared free, temperature check was introduced in every corner of the city. The reason was anyone with slightest fever can be isolated immediately. Just to give you an example, Shanghai has deployed 550 public health officials to trace the close contacts of 1,071 suspected patients. Medical workers were amazed to see how thorough the officials have been in tracing the suspected. Rapid testing was also introduced, in case that doesn’t produce accuracy, they also take into account CT images and epidemiological evidence in order to identify and isolate suspected cases.

Due to pre-Chinese New Year season – many residents of Shanghai had already traveled out. So less number of people within the city -might be another reason for less spreading of the virus. Obviously, Wuhan and four other cities were under locked down – just to make sure no one is travelling. Here lock down means lock down. On top of that testing- testing -testing, isolation – isolation- isolation was the key to success. It is impossible for any nation to understand how things work here under so called Communism – until you live here and see here the level of execution they have in place.


When all these were going on in this part of the world, most of us did not even realise the meaning of quarantine. Immediate criticisms took off highlighting the human rights questions, as China announced its biggest lock down in Wuhan. Rests of the country started implementing it soon.

 Inside Wuhan- Reuters

Implementing a solid lock down is not easy an easy task, but in China- it is absolutely doable. Thanks to China`s huge infrastructure that was already in place; especially solid online business & digital transaction made these self quarantine/ lock down days  easier.  Most of the essential things were available online. Regular out-patient hospitals went online mode to ease pressure and restrict visit to hospitals.

You can order online, things will be delivered to you within 3-4 hours.  Here, during normal time, you can get the daily essentials delivered within 30 to 40 minutes.  There was no scarcity of food, vegetables or any other essentials. All deliveries reach the community main gate and was distributed by the community workers or guards.

If you are returning from overseas, you must go for self quarantine for 14 days.  You are not allowed to open your door more than three times a day. This was monitored through a sensor / camera which are placed on the door.  If you open the door more than three times, community guards will be alerted to take necessary steps. This is a very good way in control the pandemic but also, it should be mentioned that it sparks serious privacy concerns evidenced in some places.

Airport security staff wearing protective gear check passengers arriving at Shanghai Pudong International Airport on March 19   

For some time, any one travelling from COVID-19 hit countries, were being scanned at the airport & immediately send to quarantine either to a designated place ( normally a hotel ) or at home. If the person is infected, immediately he/she is taken to the hospital.

A digitalize green health code was introduced, to make sure whoever has finished their fourteen days isolation are in good health and is allowed to access  all public transport/ places. Similar measures have been taken up by South Korea and Hong Kong, where the resident are wearing an electronic bracelet which basically is a tracking device to monitor them during their time in home quarantine.

Initially, the country suffered scarcity of masks and ventilators but the gap was immediately fulfilled within few weeks of time.

Cover photo: A deserted street of Shanghai- Photo by NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images


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