This graphic shows the current world reaction to COVID-19. Blue means "No restrictions", Orange is "Limited restrictions" while Red is "Full restrictions to maintain a zero-COVID policy". China is on its own!
So I started my term doing online lesson, JD's school has been closed this week because of two COVID cases found in a town near Kunming and, as of today (with 25 more cases found) we are all required to attend a testing centre every other day. Will it never end?
Whilst the rest of the world increasingly sees the Coronavirus pandemic as a distant memory, China still insists on a zero-COVID policy, locking down whole cites whenever a few cases are found.
This has been exacerbated recently by the upcoming National Congress Meeting. Held every five years in Beijing, this is where the Communist Party tells everyone how well it is doing, and COVID is potentially a bit of a black mark! So the authorities are cracking down...
Kunming currently has 18 cases of COVID, so the whole population (8½m) have been told to have tests every day or two if they want to get into supermarkets, buses, subway, schools, Universities etc. JD's school tests the students (and parents) twice-weekly. There are free testing centres everywhere (including this one outside our neighbourhood) but long queues to use them. When will it ever end?
China continues to try and maintain a COVID-free country. Any small outbreaks are clamped down on immediately with lockdowns (sometimes of whole cities like Shanghai, pop 26m) and mass testing. Here in Kunming, we are far from the current cases in the East, but last week a single infected air passenger arrived from Shanghai. It caused a panic and everywhere suddenly started insisting on QR health code checking and mark-wearing all over again. My own University organises regular tests of all its students and faculty. It's free, unless you want to avoid the queues and get the test done privately. And so far our city still has just the one case, but....
I'm amid a second week of online University lessons. Not ideal at all. There are significant COVID outbreaks in various places in China, but mostly in the East - far from us. I think the latest figure for Kunming is 10 cases (in a city of 7 million).
But the authorities here continue to pursue a "no-COVID" policy, trusting that lockdowns and mass testing will eventually prove more effective than Chinese vaccines and abandoning all preventative measures. That remains to be seen.
I was just about to leave for work at the University yesterday when a text message came through saying, "Do NOT come to YUFE. All lessons this week are to be conducted online".
There was no immediate explanation, but later I heard that a student in another University in Kunming had tested positive for COVID and so all Kunming Universities had to close for 3-4 days.
This presented me with some problems:
(1) My afternoon lessons were meant to be students doing "debating",
(2) I don't have the software used by the students for online work,
(3) The first lesson was in one hour's time.
So I switched the content to a different - less interactive - lesson, tried to access the relevant software but, after an hour of technical issues, gave up on that and finally sent materials and work tasks to the classes directly to complete by themselves. Not sure how things will play out for the rest of the week....
So a new year starts in China. We celebrated with a big meal (cooked by Jiajia - Ma is "dying with cancer" again i.e. she has a sore throat), a visit from Druncle, and JD's fireworks. This time last year we were returning from our holiday in Vietnam and hearing news of a possible new pandemic in China. How things move on....!
I've finally finished my first week back at my University doing face-to-face lessons. And I've I managed to overcome all the various hurdles associated with that such as;
The students handed in their first proper essays this week. About half were acceptable - the rest had seemingly listened to nothing I've been banging on about online over the last two months. The simplest thing like "having FIVE paragraphs" seems beyond some of them!! Ho-hum!!
While the UK Government had to resort to dubious accounting and underhand redefinitions to reach their April target of 100,000 COVID-19 tests a day, the Chinese Government casually announced today that they would be testing all 11 million Wuhan residents in just ten days. That's over a million tests a day!
Love them or loathe them, sometimes you've got to admire the Chinese Government's "can do" attitude. When they say they'll do something, they just get on and do it.
JD finally returned to school today after four months of holidays and home-schooling. I've quite enjoyed teaching him English and Maths most mornings, but Jiajia has found it difficult to get him to focus on his Chinese (a subject he finds difficult) and there have been quite a few stressful moments. So we're happy to see the professionals taking over again!
Some schools in China are helping students to understand social distancing by using home-made hats. Fortunately, no sign of JD having to make one, but he does have to take a handful of masks to school each day.
Like many people these days, my job now involves hosting Zoom sessions. In my case, this is with a few dozen University students at a time, spread across China. It's hard enough to get them to talk face-to-face in a classroom but, when they have various technical excuses at their fingertips, "classes" can end up with an awful lot of silence!
Although we are still largely confined to our neighbourhood, when we do occasionally venture outside, we are starting to see signs of restaurants, parks and museums reopening. Schools and university are still shut though as are half the shops. But the "Fried dough stick" snack bar down the hill from us opened yesterday, so there are definitely some signs of life returning to normal.
Things are slowly picking up here. We're still supposed to stay at home (or within our neighbourhood at least) but buses and the subway have started up again and there haven't been any new confirmed infections within Yunnan for a few days now. So, maybe some small Advances towards being able to Go out! Meanwhile, JD has been getting homework projects sent through from his school and I've been keeping him busy with Monopoly, making dens and sorting drawers, cupboards and CDs/DVDs.
We're in our 4th week of self-quarantine. We venture out into our neighbourhood occasionally to pick up food deliveries or do some exercise, but otherwise we are stuck at home waiting for the worst of COVID-19 to be over. Our Province of Yunnan is one of the least affected places in China, but that doesn't stop my good wife worrying about every possible "one in a million" chance of us catching anything! And to be fair, the advice from police, local government, hospitals and my University is also a pretty strict <STAY AT HOME>. So here we are for now, slowly going crazy!
[P.S. Our school entered the above (Jiajia /JD) painting
in a Provincial Competition and, to our surprise, it won!]
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