Ten days ago, Hubei province which was the center of COVID-19 pandemic in China, reported no new domestic case for the first time. It was a historic moment to the people there who have been locked in for almost 2 months. As for the other parts of the country, life is getting back to normal quickly. Here are some precious lessons I learnt throughout my own experience firsthand while the pandemic slowly started affecting the rest of the world.
Lesson 1 – Family rule #1: Wife is always correct. Family rule #2: Refer to rule #1
When news came on Jan. 23 that Wuhan was locked down, I didn’t take it seriously. My wife, however, started to worry. Next day we went shopping for Chinese New Year. She bought more than enough food, also dozens of masks. I laughed at her overcautiousness when we drove back. It didn’t take too long to prove I was wrong. Masks soon became a scarce commodity although food supply was still adequate around us. Most people preferred ordering online as they were afraid of crowded areas which meant they had to stay up late to wait for popular goods like vegetables to show up on shelf, as they usually sold out in a few minutes. Thanks to my wife’s ‘irrational’ shopping before the holiday, we didn’t have to worry about anything in the first two weeks of the chaos.
Lesson 2 – Don’t take a chance when facing a highly contagious virus. The risk might be just near you.
One day, a police car stopped at my neighbor’s. A gentleman looking like a doctor wearing protective clothing came out to take temperatures of each of them. A few minutes later an ambulance came and took away an old lady. We were all shocked at what we saw as like many around the world, we never felt the virus could be so close to us. The lady was sent back three days later by a police vehicle and from what we gathered, the authorities knew she had traveled back from Hubei and was being monitored as soon as she arrived. Fortunately, she was just having the usual flu. They were told to quarantine for 14 days. I never saw them step out once during that period. Community volunteers came every day to deliver necessities and take away household waste for them.
Lesson 3 – I always dreamed a life of staying in bed doing nothing but still getting paid. Now I know how painful it is.
The government declared to extend new year holiday for 10 more days to encourage people to stay at home. Everybody was cheerful about this good news. However, one problem came quickly: how to kill the additional time at home? After watching all the movies in our list and chatted on all topics we could have possibly talked about, the only thing left was sitting on the sofa, mindlessly staring at each other. One day I took a picture of a strange looking bird and put on social media. My friends who were equally as bored searched internet and gave me various answers in a few minutes. One night my son and I sat on balcony and counted the stars for quite a while. Use these moments to create bonds – be it online or offline.
Lesson 4 – Unlocking personal potentials. I reassembled my laptop and left several parts I could never install back.
While the rest of the country became instant chefs, bakers, photographers, repairman and even some; hairdressers, our constant source of entertainment were looking at these funny ‘disastrous’ clips on the internet making its rounds. No one outside of China could have understood it at that time for the rest of the world were still going about with life as usual. For me, coming from an IT background, I obliged my son’s persistent request to speed up our laptop at home by adding a new RAM with all the time I had on my hands.
Lesson 5 – Anti COVID-19 is a joint effort of entire society. Stay together, we will win.
So far there were only 451 cases were reported in Shanghai. It is an amazing achievement for a city with 24 million residents. I believe the key to that was that the city took early actions and most citizens stay at home strictly for 2 weeks or more. What kept us calm through those tough days were support from family, friends and colleagues. Reminding each other on risks, sharing funny selfies, helping to buy provisions or other necessities and most importantly, numerous people continued working under risky circumstance to keep the society running. And in turn, the self-discipline of citizens reduced the workload for those supporting us.
While I am writing this, I think about our field teams who continue working at site to ensure that cities remain lit with enough electricity to power up hospitals and homes. They are, in my eyes, the true heroes that take us forward in such a challenging global environment. We should all do our best to support them to make their life easier. If there is one important takeaway I can share with you, having been part of this pandemic from the onset of it, is that to treat this virus seriously as it is highly contagious. Study shows about 60% infected people has no or light symptom. Because of this, they may not feel they are infected and still go about with their daily life. So stay at home as much as possible, wear a mask when you go out, wash your hands when you come back and exercise every day. Finally, keep your mind active and be positive – this is very unique and precious time for entire family and community to stay together for as long as it takes!