Walking around Chinese cities and looking at signs at the gates of residential communities and notices posted to hotels and businesses, you will notice many different terminologies to describe different kinds of anti-coronavirus activities.
What do each of them mean? What, for example, is the difference between “隔离” (essentially, “quarantine”) and “观察” (“observation”)?
Talking to one person outside a hotel where people under "observation" were held, this is what they said:
"Observation" is less stringent. "Observation" lasts 7 days. It applies to some people who have been through certain areas but haven't shown symptoms.
A group of people who worked for the same company were put into the same hotel and were being "observed" for 7 days and were carrying bouquets of flowers they had been given when they got to the end of their stay. The hotels are specially used only for people being observed, and air conditioning is turned off.
"Quarantine" applies either to people show show symptoms or who are coming from the most serious areas: Hubei province and Wenzhou city, among others.
Now there are different policies in place in different cities and different districts of the same city and different policies for different circumstances. The policies are changing over time, too. So the above is not a crystal clear answer, nor an answer that applies in all cases.
The word “观察” has also been used for periods of 14 days.
In the wake of panic buying caused by the coronavirus outbreak, shelves in supermarkets selling fruits, vegetables, disinfectants, and, of course, face masks, are empty at many stores across the country.
Where I am residing, Nanjing, Jiangsu’s provincial capital and the former capital of multiple dynasties, about 190 miles northeast from Shanghai, the fruits and vegetables had been cleaned out from one Hema Supermarket in the Jianye district by afternoon of January 28. Most of them had been restocked by morning of January 29.
Meanwhile local convenience stores still stock packaged oranges and dragonfruit.
Some news outlets, authority figures, and friends have been advising the public to eat more fruits and vegetables to ward off the virus.
Passengers on two flights from Bangkok to Nanjing are being quarantined after having landed in Nanjing the night of January 26, according to CCTV News.
Up to 333 passengers on Thai AirAsia flight FD326 and Thai Lion Air flight SL922 were affected. Forty-eight of the passengers were discovered to have visited Wuhan before. After an inspection, the passengers were taken to a medical center to be quarantined for 14 days.
Any passengers who rode in train cars with people who were found to have contracted coronavirus are urged by Chinese authorities, in calls promoted in the press, to visit a disease prevention and control center in their hometown.
An article in People’s Daily titled, “Spread urgently! Urgent search for Jan. 21 passengers of car #7 in train D3937,” warns that a passenger who got off the train in southwestern Guangxi province has been confirmed to have the disease.
The train, which runs a relatively short distance from Liuzhou, Guangxi to Dali, Yunnan in the neighboring province, does not pass through Wuhan or the province of Hubei at any point.
Other warnings were published about other trains.
Many Chinese people are reluctant to take trains, planes, and buses now. Some do not even want to take public transportation in their own city! The Nanjing Metro and others have made wearing face masks on board mandatory.
Coronavirus has caused Wuhan to be virtually quarantined from outside transportation, disrupted people’s plans and lives, and infected over 1,200 people. But while the situation is dire in central China, people in most of the country are relatively safe.
People are still taking precautions, though. Surgical masks are sold out at some pharmacies. Some people are hosting smaller gatherings than they had anticipated. Museums and public places across the country are closed to decrease the risk of the virus spreading.
But it’s still Chinese New Year, and, although I opted against traveling further afoot to celebrate, I’m still going to observe the festival here in Nanjing. I grabbed a bottle of bai jiu and shared it with some friends I met at the hostel.
Celebrating Spring Festival in a big city is always different, because most of the residents go back to their ancestral hometown. But here are a few tips that apply both in ordinary times and now with the disease spreading:
Bai jiu kills viruses, don’t you know. Drink up!
Unless you are seasoned in the appreciation of bai jiu (producer Derek Sandhaus says you need hundreds of drinks to develop a taste), most foreigners can’t tell the difference between two different brands of bai jiu. I say, select the cheapest.
Lots of restaurants in cities are closed during Spring Festival, but Lanzhou beef noodle restaurants are almost always open. (As are restaurants in mass tourism districts, like Fuzimiao and Laomendong in Nanjing.)
Take precautions and use common sense. One local village broadcast on its loudspeakers a call encouraging residents to tell their relatives working in Wuhan to stay home. But don’t go overboard. It’s still Spring Festival, after all, and nothing you worry about is going to decrease the likelihood of you getting sick.
In 2012, I went out to Yunnan to visit a village in Dali county. The village of Shuanglang, which is on the northwestern edge of Erhai Lake is extremely beautiful. It is literally built right next to the lake. You can see the water from some of the guesthouses. You can walk along a boardwalk and sip a beer while looking across at boats and clouds and the villages on the other side.
I stayed at a hostel recommended by a friend who lived in Dali. The hostel, the name of which I cannot remember, and may or may not still exist, was built largely out of wood and had an artfully-designed interior. In the bedroom, the beds were all on platforms of different levels.
Agriculture is one of the major industries in the villages of Dali, and there were a lot of chickens running around the field next to the hostel. I learned two things from living near chickens: First, the sun rises a lot earlier than I had guessed; and second, hens actually start clucking half an hour or longer before it actually rises. Nonetheless, I had to thank the chickens. A few of them fed us well on the Mid-Autumn Festival.
The hostel organized a feast that could be said to celebrate the two festivals at once. They put three long tables together and had some volunteers prepare food starting in the morning. In the afternoon, they set out the tables with a cornucopia of delicious Chinese home-style cooking. Everyone staying at the hostel was invited.
As I was the only foreigner staying at the hostel, the other guests took a particular interest in watching me drink baijiu.
“How does it taste?” they asked.
“Spicy,” I said, after choking just a few drops down.