Today is the eighth day of my isolation. It’s been a week now. I stay at home, doing everything I never found the time to do and stopping myself from going out, getting the food delivered, and trying to force myself to wake up at 7 AM as I truly believe this will soon end and I will face difficulties coming back to my regular schedule. It’s my fourth Spring Festival holiday or what westerners call “Chinese New Year” in Beijing, but the first one with Coronavirus infection spreading all over.
People mainly stay inside, though a couple of days ago the fluffy February snowflakes could not stop some of them from going out. I heard the kids laughing, it was beautiful. The city is very silent now, even with my window open I do not hear any sounds from anything happening outside, probably, because there is nothing happening there. Sometime in the morning, I can hear the garbage truck and the sound of bins getting emptied. My neighbors bought a basketball, which they don’t bounce after 9 PM. I really appreciate that. The ones from another apartment bought their kid a flute; I can hear him playing it when I am in the bathroom. He is improving, good to know.
I have washed and ironed my kitchen curtains, first time in two years. And my tiles never looked cleaner than they are now. Isolation is the worst thing that can happen to a proactive sociable person like me. I have a TV that I don’t watch and a bulk of news websites I used to like, but prefer to ignore now. I read Xinhua news channel and hope for the best. Time is ticking. The days are passing. The latest data that gets updated every hour says that as for now it’s more than twenty thousand people sick and almost three thousand people infected with Coronavirus, more than four hundred people died and almost seven hundred people got successfully cured. I check it every morning and every evening, trying to keep track of it.
Coronavirus as they call it all over the world or Wuhan pneumonia we call it in here is believed to have been transmitted to humans from the meat of animals sold on the Wuhan local market, those including crocodiles, snakes, bats, bamboo rats, porcupines and whatever else. Wuhan has been on the news since after. Weibo has dozens of videos showing construction workers making a new hospital there to enable the medical personnel treat and exam more patients. These people have no rest, they are only able to sleep in those short pauses when there are no more other people coming. The long columns of buses brought more than three hundred thousand medical workers to Wuhan to fight against something invisible, unknown and yet incurable with a vaccine. Nobody will ever able to pay them back for what they do. That is the ultimate sacrifice, leaving their children and spouses at home for the greater good and the nation’s sake.
Most foreigners living in China got insane, most of them have already left and probably are not going to come back. Some got really crazy and hysteric, telling the things that are even disgusting to read, let alone to say. The last Russian article regarding Corona I read, and it was the last, not the latest, because no one can digest such things, disclosed the interview with a South African girl living in Wuhan, who stated that she personally saw infected people walking in the streets and spitting into other people’s faces and onto the elevator’s buttons. Bravo. I think she’s got the talent. I would not be able to make such a thing up probably even if I got super drunk, or high, or infected with the Coronavirus from damn porcupine. Probably her books could be sold better than mine. An American living there stated that she saw the helicopters spraying poison over the streets and houses. My friend living there with his wife and a toddler says they are doing fine; there is plenty of groceries in the stores, plenty of masks in the pharmacies and streets are almost empty, with guards measuring the temperature of everyone they meet.
A week ago I came back from Phnom Penh, there is more panic there than here. That’s probably because they have so many Chinese tourists, well, every place has. On my way home from the airport, I did not meet many people, those several that I did meet wore masks and tried to keep away from each other. The air smelt like in a hospital and people were sanitizing the airport rooms and subway cars. I always felt safe in China, but I never felt as safe as now.
The world’s media and senseless rumors, which are fueling hysteria, have huge advertising campaigns. Everybody out there now hates China. How does that come? The whole virus situation will pass, in a few months everything will return to normal, in China, people will stop wearing masks, but the image of China as a country with issues will remain. This is one of the goals of this campaign that is flowing into people’s brains through eyes and ears—striking an image of China. That is because China is the country that is now the factory of the world, which allows it to grow and develop faster than any other region on the world map. The spread of infection brought a huge panic to every country, which is definitely profitable for certain ones. Oil is getting cheaper, stock exchanges and financial markets are feverish, fake news is shouted out from every show. If you don’t want to panic, don’t turn on the TV.
The fear of an epidemic has long been a powerful tool for managing people and social processes. Epidemics have always been an absolute evil for humanity and claimed more lives than wars. Fear of an epidemic works well and is actually stronger than the epidemic itself. Fear is the most powerful weapon, not the virus. These fear-spreading injections of toxic information use the methods of neuro-linguistic programming of the population very effectively. The power of fear is the biggest power there is.
At some point I understood that people abroad are more scared of what is happening in China than those actually living in it and seeing what is really happening. All of the people I know somehow believe we all will be dead in a month at best if we don’t leave China right now. Well, it’s pretty hard to leave the place we are now calling home, the place that has been our home for several years now, and the place that we care about. The most hysterical are those people from ‘developing’ countries, although it’s hard to believe their countries will be able to cure them there if they get sick with it or bring it home having no symptoms for now. It’s hard to explain to my mom that my home is not anymore where she still thinks it is. I belong to where I am now. Writing this I sit in my small apartment in Beijing, eating tofu brain soup and thinking of how people like her can believe what they read on the news more than what, let’s say, they hear from their relatives or friends. I am not sure if it is the power of fear or the power of spreading the rumors that is bigger.
Wuhan theatre and several major buildings have encouraging light banners saying, “Keep fighting.” We should all pray for them, those locked in and those treating the patients, those building the hospitals and those creating the vaccine, those who were born there and live there, and those who came there to help. People there need to be stronger than any of us staying in Beijing, Shanghai, Bangkok, Hanoi, Moscow, Paris, Hamburg, or Chicago. But all of us have no right to let the power of fake information and rumors take over our lives, we should not let the power of fear win. Staying where we are is the best option. From the greater point of view, it has nothing to do with countries’ development or vaccines, with what we call home and what we don’t, it’s all about not spreading it more, not infecting the people we love and the strangers we never met before. The restricting measures and common sense will save the world from the epidemic spread, but there is no wall to stop the fear. To fight it all – all of us should fight as one, no matter where we are and what we do. All the Chinese citizens along with thousands of foreigners who decided to stay here live with no fear, but with confidence that it will be stopped soon. Everyone from the Himalayas to the Yellow Sea, from the Mongolian deserts to the South China Sea resist the power of fear as one, praying for Wuhan, praying for China, praying for everyone in the world wherever they are to fight the fear.
YULIIA VERETA is a young writer from Ukraine, traveling the world and getting inspiration from other cultures to write short stories, poetry, creative non-fiction and whatever else that can comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. Her other works were published in print and online in 2019 in Litro Magazine (UK), Genre: urban arts (USA), Penultimate Peanut Magazine (USA), the Valley Voices (USA) and the McGuffin (USA). She received the 2018 City of Rockingham Short Story Award (Australia) and became the finalist in 2019 Poetry Matters Project (USA) as well as 2019 Hessler Poetry Contest (USA).