It had been a year without a single COVID case in Guangzhou, we all thought the pandemic was behind us and we could just continue living our lives here in the bubble. But somehow late May the virus escaped and infected an older women living in Liwan district. It's still unclear how she got the infection, but without knowing she was sick, she visited several restaurants in the city and the new outbreak started.
First mass COVID testing at our district, didn't even get to the testing site before they came knocking on our door and tested us right then and there. My heart goes out to all of the medical workers working during this time. (Photo: Sara Jaaksola)
Since the end of May there has been over a hundred new cases in total. This number might not seem like a lot to many countries that have more cases per day, but it still is a serious risk in a city like Guangzhou where people live close to each other and like spending time together in groups.
Mass testing site in Haizhu district next to a popular shopping mall (Photo: Sara Jaaksola)
These weeks Guangzhou has gradually introduced new preventative methods to control the outbreak. Right now only Tianhe district allows to dine in the restaurants with customer limit at 50% of usual capacity during the daytime, and all the other districts have suspended indoor dining. To get into any public places or transportation you need to show a green health code. If you health code turns yellow, meaning you might have had contact with someone infected, then you must take a COVID test at the same day and after negative results your code can turn green again.
Guangzhou has also conducted mass testings in all districts, some districts even three or four times. That's around 18 million people tested more than once! Our district conducted mass COVID tests last Saturday and Tuesday. Luckily our whole district was negative!
Mass testing site in Huangpu district during the second testing day (Photo: Sara Jaaksola)
For individuals and families there is of course the scare of getting infected, but even more so getting a yellow code and having to stay at home waiting for results and your health code turning green again. During this time you can't go to any public venues or take public transportation. In our village they are also again starting to check health codes, meaning with yellow health code I don't know if I could even go home. For sure I wouldn't be allowed to my office with nothing else than a green health code.
Guangzhou started vaccinations for foreigners in April and I got my first shot in early May. As I am writing this, I just got an appointment for my second and final shot. A shiny kapok flower is added to my health code to show everyone I have been vaccinated.
Vaccination is free for foreigners who pay for social security, for others it's just 100CNY. Mass testing was free for everyone, including foreigners. Testing on your own, for example for leaving the city you need a negative results no older than 48 hours, you need to pay less than 100CNY at local health centers or a few hundreds at international clinics.
Our daughter getting tested for the fourth time, she already knows how it works and isn't scared at all. (Photo: Sara Jaaksola)
During this time we got a big scare too when last weekend our daughter started to have a fever, at the worst possible time. Fever reducing medicine isn't available freely now, so you won't be able to hide your possible COVID symptoms, so we had to head to the hospital for a check up. At the hospital we were told that only one parent can accompany the child to the fever clinic, so my local husband went with our daughter. I stayed outside and brought them food for lunch and water in the afternoon. Blood results came in couple of hours and she luckily only had a common cold. But we weren't done yet. In order to leave the fever clinic you also need a negative COVID test result, so we had to wait in the hospital for five hours before we got the results and could go home with our Tylenol (a mild drug which reduces pain and fever).
This weekend China is celebrating a three-day Dragon Boat Festival holiday and Guangzhou is trying its best to have citizens stay at home and stay safe. Leaving the city you need a negative test result no older than 48 hours. Many long distance buses have been cancelled and all public events have been halted.
The restrictive measures seems to be working, but it's still unsure when we can return back to normal life again. I understand our soft "lockdown" is nothing compared to many other cities that have been closed completely, but after living a normal life already for a year, it did come as a shock to us that this is happening all over again.
Stay safe and healthy everyone!
Author: Sara Jaaksola
The author is a Chinese teacher in Guangzhou from Finland. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of GDToday.