Easy Tour China Founder Wei's Life during Coronavirus Epidemic
January 2020 was a great month till alarm was sent around Jan.24. We had our annual year-end meeting & outing in Chengyang Dong village Jan.10-11. It was a great time with awards delivered to outstanding performers on the team, and fun team activities.
Jan.20, virus in Wuhan was on the news. Ricky recommended that we better play safe and send everyone home as quickly as possible. Company decided to give everyone some extra days to make sure everyone can join their parents in time. We were released 2 days before schedule (on Jan.22) for the grand celebration of Spring Festival. Ricky was terribly correct!
Jan.21 Had a talk with Peicy who planned to drive to join her parents in Chibi, some 150km south of Wuhan city. Tried to persuade her not to go back.
Jan.22, 2020 My sister returned from USA and I went to pick her up at Guilin airport. What a great time! She did not have a chance to spend the Spring Festival with my parents for more than 15 years.
Jan.23, 2020. News came that Wuhan was locked down to stop the virus from spreading. News said some 400k people from Wuhan moved out from Wuhan during 8hrs before the locked-down was enacted. Virologists declared that this virus was higly contagious. Deaths were reported. All the festivity feel froze.
My friend, Lao Fang, runs a small guesthouse in Chengyang Dong village in Sanjiang, near Guilin. He called to say he had to cancel bookings now. I called up hotels in Yangshuo and same thing was happening. The Spring Festival travel season was dead.
(Before Wuhan was locked down, millions of people living in the city had traveled to other places. But this car, as the owner said, had been in Guilin since June. So it is "a safe car".)
Jan.24, 2020. (Spring Festival New Years Eve) My wife, son and me drove to my parents (living in same city) for dinner. My sister booked dinner table at a great restaurant nearby. But we finally decided we will bring the food home instead of eating there. I drove there with my sister and everyone was wearing masks. 2/3 of the restaurant was empty. Hurried back home. Fireworks at midnight to welcome the new year was sparse, much less than the year before.
Jan.25-30, 2020 (New Year of the Rat begins with a bad virus) Outbreak in Wuhan was bad, just bad! Loads of infected people could not get hospitalized due to shortage of facilities and medical staff. Panic spread all over the country, as people were not educated well about this new virus - even virologists were working hard to grasp first hand knowledge. Rumours spread fast over internet as we all have the smart phones.
Medical teams & facilities from all over the country start to pour into Wuhan and Hubei province, the center of the outbreak. Fire God Hospital & Thunder God Hospital were being built, one finished in 7 days and the other 10 days - amazing speed.
Numerous volunteers & donations were gathered to help with the virus fighting. News had it vegietable farmers in Wenchuan (shocked by the horrible 2008 Sichuan earthquake) organized trucks to transfer vegietables to Wuhan to repay the help they received during the bad earthquake time. Volunteers drove their own cars to transfer the medical staff between home and hospital. Cafe/restaurants made hundreds of boxes of food & drinks for the medical staff. So touching!
(Ian, who works at Easy Tour China, helps the Yangshuo County government to control the epidemic)
Guilin started to block incoming roads/rails. For the tour group from Wuhan, they were moved to Guilin Hong Kong Hotel for quarantine. Food was provided FOC with donations & financial help from local government. Villages nearby were road blocked.
On Jan.27 I invited my parents to come to my home for dinner. Had to sneak them in my car as the living quarters started to stop visitors from coming in. We had a short walk in the beautiful garden like residential area. Then I quickly drove them home.
My sister started to rebook a flight to get back to USA ahead of time. It cost her USD900 but we all agreed it was a great choice. The flight was on Jan.30, via Shanghai.
On Jan.30 I drove my sister to airport to see her off. Airport was very quiet. Everyone was wearing mask. It was a sunny day and the decorative red paper flowers on the trees were so pretty. We hugged each other and said goodbye. I am sure she shedded tears for not being able to stay with us for another week. She is always sentimental.
I decided not to visit my parents home as I just visited some public areas. The panic hit me as well. I remember back in 2003 during the SARS time, very few people wore masks and we still go to eat in restaurants. Back then there was not a single case in Guilin.
Jan.31-Feb.07 Medical teams from all over the country continued to pour into Wuhan and Hubei. Numerous heart moving stories were reported. I was deeply touched by the doctors & nurses who gave up their family time and holiday time, with possibility of contracting the disease themselves.
From what we gathered in the news, there was no sign of the disease being controlled. We could not go back to work as planned (Feb.01). So company sent out notice that holiday was prolonged to indefinite date.
Easy Tour China Travel (the company I work for) continued its travel update to partners overseas, citing information from government media, WHO info and various other sources like FCO in UK. Most of booked tours in March were cancelled. Cancellation for April bookings continued.
One of the 8 whistle blowers (all doctors), Dr. Li Wenliang (eye doctor) died from the virus. His death created an uproar across the media.
Dr. Li Wenliang shared among his doctors friend circle at the end of December 2019 about a coronavirus symptom. Then he was questioned by local police in Wuhan about his "misconduct" and he had to sign a police paper not to continue his "illegal misconduct" again. On Jan.08, he treated an patient with eye problem. The follow day, the patient showed symptoms of coronavirus. Dr. Li started to cough on Jan.10 and was admitted into the ICU later on. On Feb.01, he was diagnosed as a confirmed coronavirus patient and died on Feb.06.
(Doctor Li Wenliang)
I went to a nearby pharmacy to get some Chinese herbs. They were promoted by the medical teams in Guangdong province, who fought SARS successfully with TCM (Chinese Traditional Medicine) back in 2003. At home, I continued to read the unfinished books about a dialogue between 2 famous guys on TCM, which Ricky highly recommended to me back in 2018.
Feb.08-15: Strict rules & regulations continued with controlled entry & exit in each residential areas in Guilin. Most shops remained closed. Some restaurant sold "take away" at discounted price. My son insisted that I buy the roasted goose wings from the Chunji Roast Duck restaurant, one of the most famous in Guilin.
I got a bit bored staying at home all the time. So I called James and Charlie, one person per time, to go to office to have tea, as local government said 3 person makes a crowd and any crowd during the virus time was forbidden. By the way, time to learn some Chinese. One person in Chinese character is 人, and two persons is 从, while three persons is 众.
Update treatment recommendation from national health center was published. TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) was promoted. Back in 2003, TCM was introduced at an later stage and proved quite effective. And in the fight against COVID-19, TCM was introduced at a faster speed. TCM, in my eye, was a systematic and well developed way of treating the sick and offering people a healthy life. Its theory is to rebuild the defense system in the human body rather than killing a germ or virus.
Confirmed cases increase start to slow down a bit. Government at different levels planned for people to return to work. That involved large scale of public transportation inside China. Virologists warned of further spreading.
Some shops started to open but no shoppers. For those allowed to resume working, the life is still simple, home - work - food market - home. Restaurants still closed. Some parks were reopend but limited to outdoors section. Online education system for school kids was not working well, according to the news. Many teachers, kids and parents got frustrated.
Loads of articles started to circulate about the China CDC's status. China CDC's status and research funds need to be improved. That sounds a perfect step forward if it happens. When I was a guide, lots of clients told me China was fortunate because many other developed countries' mistakes could be avoided. But when it comes to practices, it is always not that easy. Economic progress always happened at the cost of environment, for example.
Our Tibet friends:
Today I called DK in Tibet. DK said most shops were still closed in Lhasa. Bagkor Street remained closed to avoid crowd worshipping & visiting. Same as me, he spent the entire month at home, even during these few days of Tibetan New Year. He said all temples were still closed and local government is on constant alert as large amount of people from outside of Tibet are coming back to work. When I shared with him an article I read in the morning about tea's contribution in fighting the virus, he was very excited and told me he was drinking green tea right then.
Today COVID-19 large section of news is TCM. efforts are forthe severecases
(Meituan staff deliver take-away foods in Guilin)
March 5, 2020
Finally finished the book, Shark's Fin and Sichuan Peppers by Fuchsia Dunlop. It is an amazing booking, not only a vivid description of the diversified food in China thru the eyes of an avid China cooking learner, but also a great story of what happened in China in the 1990s and new millenium.
As crazy eaters, the southern Chinese found food in almost everything. Possibly due to the fact that arable lands were limited among the hills & mountains, the southerners in history were not as well developed in agriculture as the central plains area between the Yangtze River and Yellow River.
Born in a northerners' family, I was quite appalled by the scene of southerners' kids catching & eating snakes in my childhood. As I have been stunned by the very fact that many locals in & around Guilin enjoy eating dogs.
Rat is another food that I struggled many years with, before finally grabbing a piece and swallowing it down. Among the Dong ethnic people living in South China, field mice (not city rats or village rats) has been considered a delicacy, possibly as fancy as the fried grasshoppers. And I still remembered T, my friend from UK, when he downed some fried rat and grasshopper with a chilled beer right before my eyes traveling in Guizhou province. China has progressed over the years and is capable of feeding its 1.4 billion people with enough food. Possibly it is time that people are educated about a good diet balance to stay healthy instead of eating too much, or too exotic.
March 9, 2020.
Coronavirus has been spreading around the world for the past 2 weeks, reaching a high of 25,000 outside of China. It is comforting, however, to see the numbers in China decreasing all the time, at 18900 today. With the current speed of medical treatment, within a week, the infected will drop well below 10,000 here in China.
Easy Tour China has decided to partially resume work at Mar.16 by rotating staff morning and afternoon, keeping the density of staff low in office. It is time to restore the work morale. We've got enough toilet papers!
Guess nobody googles "China travel" or "China tour" now. It is bad for us working for the inbound travel.
(The Guilin rice noodles restaurants opens and people can buy take-away noodles)
March 11, 2020
10% drop on the confirmed cases of Coronavirus in China. Today at 16,214 with 32 new confirmed cases across China. Most cases are still in Hubei province, at 15,665. Across China, total confirmed case number dropped from 80,958 to 16,214, a tremendously achievement thanks to the unified efforts of government, medical staff and the people in China.
Across Guangxi province, the size of UK, the number of remaining confirmed cases dropped to 13. Guilin area is cleared today. Restaurants started to resume service but with regulations of quarantine. Rice noodle shops were possibly the first (around March 1st) to be opened, as millions of people wanted the unique everyday food badly.
People are still wearing mask on the streets. Residential areas are still guarded by community service people checking temperatures and asking questions. The last confirmed infected patient in Guilin was released from hospital.
Me and James decided to pay our friends in Yangshuo a visit. The expressway does not charge tolls till June. The section between Guilin and Yangshuo was claimed by my well-travelled friends to be one of the most beautiful highways in China. Yet the traffic was not heavy at all.
Paul (English) & Wei (lots of Weis in China, like John or David) of Bamboo Leaf Hotel in Yangshuo was happy to see us. Over the coffee, we talked about the situation in Yangshuo. As a few of hospitals in Guilin were designated medical centers for coronavirus, all cases including suspects were delivered from the outlying towns to Guilin since the beginning.
Most hotels in Yangshuo still remain closed, though restaurants & bakeries, together with other shops, started to open up. No tourists in sight. Paul strongly shared with us his idea that the virus is nothing to worry about though he has also been following the local rules by wearing a mask in public. As a fervent coffee drinker, Paul also shared with us his ideal coffee including how to make great pour-overs. Off we went to visit Ian, our long time friend who started Secret Garden Hotel in Jiuxian village. Ian is a England born South African architect who worked & stayed in China for more than 18 years. He is a miracle and frequently attracts the attention of major media in China. In his words, he simply fall in love with China.
Though Ian shared the same idea with Paul that the virus is nothing to worry about, he followed the village rule and actively participated in the "block the village" volunteer service by guarding the village from any visitors during the bad time (Feb). He was constantly stationed at the road block wearing a mask with a temperature checker to monitor all incoming villagers - in China, villages are well connected by marriages and it is unimaginable if they stop any close relatives from dropping by during the traditional New Year time (Jan.24-Feb.10 in 2020).
(Wei and James are eating in local restaurant)
March 14, 2020. Sunny
Total existing cases dropped by more than 10% to 12,158 in China. Severe cases dropped also by more than 10% to 3610 with a death toll of 14. Chinese virologists said things will be very positive end of March. But we should definitely watch out for the imported cases as many overseas Chinese are coming back from the infected areas.
As per Chinese media, outside of China, total confirmed cases is a hefty 64,144 with death toll of 2236 and 6670 healed. Daily confirmed increase at 6729, death 308, and 423 healed. Not very positive.
Over the past week, medical teams from China was sent to Iraq, Iran and Italy. Good international move.
In Guilin, we still need to have temperature checked in & out of residence areas, markets, book stores. Daily commuting looks like back to normal, though all electric scooter (replacing the bicyles for many years) riders still wear facial masks. Called P and he has taken his family to Longsheng, a subordinating town under Guilin. He sounds very relaxed and commented that things in Guilin made him less relaxed. Well, of course, as all cases, confirmed or suspects are all brought to Guilin medical centers.
March 16, 2020
Healed cases today only 851, but total existing number under 10,000 today. Situation in Europe deteriorates.
News said the overseas Chinese coming back to China will have to pay for their isolation and medical bills. I think this is justified since they did not pay for the social insurances. Some infected, before flying back, took fever pills and claimed they were all right. Nasty. Some were found and will be punished by law.
Webinar attended, given by Zhengyu Huang, White House Fellow during Obama. Live and learn reiterated. Bought his book online and will share with my families and friends.
Sister wechated to say in US things are getting delicate. And in UK it is getting interesting with loads of people choose to stay indoors, similar to China last month.
Less than half of colleagues are back in office today. Company encourages the young guys to read more books and try to learn new skills.
March 17, 2020. Raining
From the map of coronavirus infected regions in China, half of the territory is cleared. Existing cases continue to drop by 10% to some 9000 cases. Total death rate is still @3.9%.
FCO of UK virus update now includes load of countries that government said "no travel". Loads of Chinese students studying in England have purchased flights to come back to China.
Salt Lake City Police twittered "SLCPD is asking all criminal activities/nefarious behaviors to cease until further notice." (quotes from many circulating unconfirmed "media".)
China medical aid including testing materials arrived in Serbia on the night of March 15. Chinese Traditional Medicine is also included in the package aid. Good move.
Some national medical teams started to pull back from Hubei and Wuhan the epicenter in China, their glorious mission accomplished.
March 18, 2020
Malaysia slams door shut on inbound tourism.
Qantas Group slashes international capacity by 90%. World Travel & Tourism Council estimated 50 million jobs in travel industry is at risk.
"Travel is the backbone of economies around the world. It brings in essential currency and inward investment, creates jobs and stimulates every sector. WTTC figures show travel and tourism contributes to 10.4% of Global GDP and 320 million jobs. It is responsible of creating one in five new jobs and, for eight successive years, has outpaced the growth of the global economy.
FCO of UK advises against all non-essential travel from the UK.
Now could be the worst time. But when the worst time is over, is good times far away? Confirmed exsiting cases in China dropped to 8220 down by another 10% on a day to day basis.
Got a heart warming email from D & K in US, saying they are thinking of us and they are safe from the virus. More important, D & K are still thinking of getting some friends to travel to China, when situation improves. They have been traveling with us to different parts of China for the past 8 years and introduced us to many of their friends while working in China. How can we thank them enough other than taking good care of them during their travel?
March 19, 2020. partially sunny. Pouring rain stopped. River swollen.
Local people had enough of corona and some are taking off their masks. Not sure if that is a good sign. But I feel the local people in Guilin has a strong "I don't give a shit" attitude over the years. They were also the best fighters/soldier in history. Guangxi soldiers fought bravely against the Manchu government in the 19th century. And when the French was about to take the border areas, they fought the invaders and forced them to back out. In the 2nd World War, they fought the invading Japs bravely and won important battles. (Read: Modern China: A Guide to a Century of Change, by Mr. Graham Hutchings, a China correspondent for London's Daily Telegraph for over a decade, and a friend of mine).
Had a WeChat talk with T, our biz partner/friend in UK. He recommends that I do not read too much of Coronavirus anymore. Exactly, there is just too much about it and it is not end of the world. And a sunny day always brings lots of hopes.
I picked up the book I bought on Amazon in 2011, and continue my reading: Through th e Looking Glass: China's Foreign Journalists from Opium War to Mao.
>> Read More about Wei's Life during During Coronavirus Epidemic in March 2020