Videos of triumphant doctors in Wuhan removing their protective equipment flooding social media this week symbolized the end of the fight against COVID-19 in the city where the outbreak began. With travel restrictions set to lift April 8 in Wuhan and wider Hubei province, and domestically transmitted cases of the virus near zero, life for China’s 1.4 billion residents is getting back to a new normal.

Most people are back to work now, except for teachers like myself, though schools, too, have recently scheduled opening dates in numerous provinces. Here in Jinan, the provincial capital a few hours south of Beijing, we continue to wait for the word from the education bureau. But it’s looking like mid-April or May that the days of education by WeChat will be behind us and our students will be back in the classroom.

In Beijing, sections of the Great Wall have reopened to tourists, though facemasks are mandatory and visitors are required to stay one meter apart. In my neighborhood, local restaurants are reopening their long-shuttered doors, while others move away from delivery-only formats that sustained Chinese residents averse to cooking, myself included, throughout the epidemic as weeks turned into months of self quarantine.

My neighborhood gym and local spa both reopened last week, and bars frequented by expats and locals alike have seen their first customers in months. I, too, have encountered friends who live outside my apartment building for the first time in as long.

In China, the sense of relief is palpable as the worst has passed.

In China, the sense of relief is palpable as the worst has passed. Strict, stridently obeyed government orders enforced social distancing for months, with most public places closed and in some areas only one member of a household was permitted to leave each day for necessities. Now, each weekday morning Jingshi road, the main byway through Jinan, roars to life just as it did before the epidemic, this week the loudest yet.

While we readjust to normal life in China, daily headlines remind us that the situation grows increasingly dire abroad. In February, numerous countries led by the United States, where I’m from, shut their borders to arrivals from China. Weeks later, with anxieties running high that imported cases of the virus could lead to a second outbreak in China, the reverse is occurring.

In The Spotlight

On Saturday, March 28, China shut its border to all foreigners, including those with valid visas. A warning email from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing informed us that “hospitals may refuse admittance to travelers who have been in the United States 14 days prior to entering China.” Anyone who arrives in China from abroad is subject to a 14-day, strictly monitored quarantine. Flight cancellations continue unabated; beginning March 29, foreign airlines will be required to maintain only one route to China, with one flight per week.

Apartment complexes and stores continue to check residents’ and patrons’ temperatures on a daily basis. Before entering a mall or any neighborhood other than your own, everyone is required to check in with a location app, which includes providing your passport or citizenship identification number. These measures might seem like overkill, especially in a city like Jinan, where we saw only 47 cases total throughout the epidemic, each of which has now resolved in a recovery. But if China hadn’t enacted such strict measures, not only in Wuhan or Hubei but across the country, the epidemic could have spiraled out of control—which seems to be happening in the U.S.

Outside my apartment in Jinan, people are laughing and smiling in public again—a few brave souls doing so without their government-mandated facemask covering their mouth and nose. Groups of teenage boys, some with their face masks pulled down to their chins, crowd sidewalks, and laughing children play in the alley behind my apartment building. Spring is in the air as everyone is relieved to be getting outside after months cooped up.

The international community is right to be angry that the Chinese Communist Party concealed information about COVID-19 when it first broke out in December. Earlier warnings and a more timely international exchange of information may have lessened the number of cases and deaths in China and across the globe. Nevertheless, as China celebrates the eradication of the virus and offers assistance to the international community, world leaders would do well to follow its lead.

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Cami Bissen
About The Author Cami Bissen
A Washington, DC-area native, Cami Bissen graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in public policy studies in 2019. She lives in Jinan, Shandong province, China, where she works as an English teacher.




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