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My Wuhan COVID-19 diaries - Effectively combatting a global pandemic, the Chinese way
Author:Abid Hussain  Date:2021-01-14  Clicks:

The main gate of WHU one week into the complete lockdown (January 31, 2020) 

I am writing this piece as Wuhan is embracing yet another December. The Wuhan lockdown lifting and everyday life resuming, this December could not be more important and welcoming. There has never been any other time during my overall stay in China more significant than today to celebrate, but with caution. It is like a dream come true for many of us who remained extraordinarily positive and stood alongside our Chinese friends throughout this challenging time.

In the early months of 2020, the highly contagious novel coronavirus disease had hit China hard. The Chinese government imposed a lockdown in Wuhan city – home to more than 11 million people, to contain the spread of the novel Coronavirus. Initially, China faced extreme criticism from the international community for cutting off a province from the rest of the world. The response of global media to the lockdown once again raised questions about its rationality and objectivity.

The lockdown caused people’s anxiety and fear. Still, time proved that the lockdown not only proved critical in containing the spread of the virus but also provided a window for other countries to develop contingency plans. Regrettably, so many countries couldn’t exploit the opportunity to make a comprehensive preparedness and response mechanism.

It was during this lockdown that I happened to complete The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, where he says, “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.” Just like other foreigners residing in China, for every Chinese citizen and their families at home and abroad, coming out of this crisis safe and sound was a dream. And today, it seems that we are almost there.

The challenging time


In front of the Administration Building of WHU (April 18, 2020)

I have been living in China for almost five years now. I stayed in the beautiful city of Qingdao for two years before moving to Wuhan three years ago. During my five years of stay in China, I was lucky enough to explore China – from Beijing in the North to Urumqi in the West, and Qingdao in the East to Xiamen in the South. I also explored more than ten cities by cycling, and witnessed the irresistible charm of the land and its people. But what I have seen and learned during the past couple of months of one of the most challenging times China has ever faced is an entirely different experience.

It was all about one goal, one mission. I saw a unified and comprehensive response and a massive human and financial resource mobilization. The retired medical staff was coming back to duty. Hospitals were being built in days and weeks. The community was owning the government’s measures and overseas Chinese sending charter planes full of assistance. Above all, foreigners were being looked after in a remarkably dignified and hospitable way. What I experienced was very different from what the international community and media said about China’s response to COVID-19 pandemic.

Universities supplemented national efforts

Sole disinfection area at the Service Centre of the International Students Dormitory (February 13, 2020)

Apart from government initiatives, it is also essential to mention what Universities did to cope with this grave situation. Universities carried out a holistic public awareness campaign. They effectively quarantined students to restrict their mobility: disinfected dormitories and public places on campus. The schools monitored students’ fever at the exit and entry points of the dorms, kept their records, and provided free meals to the students currently residing on campus. University employees canceled their holidays and were present on-campus to facilitate the students. The universities connected students to online supermarkets that delivered groceries at the doorstep. They made every possible measure to look after the students stranded in Wuhan.

Do it the “Chinese way”

Being tested for COVID-19 during the Mass Testing Campaign of the Wuhan Local Government (May 19, 2010)

The Chinese experience tells us that, “Besides a firm will and massive resource mobilization, the seemingly little things like social distancing, self-quarantine, washing hands, and wearing a mask could play a significant role in defeating the global pandemics like COVID-19.” Enforced but community-owned social distancing was one of the significant reasons China could contain the novel Coronavirus so effectively. In response to COVID-19 pandemic, China was one of the few countries so far that has effectively imposed a lockdown. Still, it was not a spontaneous and hastily taken decision. It was partial, incremental, and systematic.

Another decisive factor was the effective utilization of technology and big data. China is one of the most prominent players globally in technology and big data. China could trace the suspected cases and their close contacts effectively utilizing the available data and collaborating with the civil aviation, railways, and telecommunication companies. Now, so many countries and regions, including Italy, Iran, France, and even the United States, replicate similar strategies by implementing either partial or complete lockdowns to contain the virus.

The long-awaited return

Waiting at the Tianhe International Airport of Wuhan city to catch a special flight back home after a months-long lockdown (June 05, 2020)

Exactly five months ago, China was at the same crossroads where Pakistan is today. At the time, I had resolved to stay positive and get through a challenging time together with my friends and colleagues in China. Today, I also made precisely the same resolution – to stay positive and get through this challenging time together with my family and friends in Pakistan.Today, Pakistan has to make an existential choice, and the options are limited. New infections in the country are increasing significantly. In Wuhan, I have witnessed the most challenging time since the outbreak of COVID-19. But, I have also seen the Chinese government’s dedication and resolve and its people to defeat the virus.

Understandably, the challenge is enormous for Pakistan, where the economy and health system are relatively weaker, making it more challenging to handle any such situation. Still, the risk of leaving citizens at the disposal of the virus is even higher with the strain of resources. Humanity, religion, science, and common-sense require us to be vigilant, careful, and patient in such situations. Let us be patient, compassionate, and help each other in this difficult time. Let’s hope and pray that this outbreak ends soon, and we witness the bustling cities, towns, and villages again.


Photo by Abid Hussain

Edited by Zou Xiaohan and Hu Sijia

(a winning entry from "Impressive Luojia: the first graphic and English text collection activity of WHU")


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