Yorkshire ex-pat reveals how coronavirus has changed life in China: Yorkshire Post Letters

The scene in Hong Kong as fears grows about the spread of Coronavirus.
The scene in Hong Kong as fears grows about the spread of Coronavirus.
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From; Jeremy P Fawcett, Guilin, China.

AS a White Rose expatriate for the past 12 years, I can report that in Guilin, mainland China, the streets are becoming ever more deserted following the coronavirus epidemic.

A passenger wearing a mask gestures as they arrive at Manila's international airport, Philippines.

A passenger wearing a mask gestures as they arrive at Manila's international airport, Philippines.

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Though the buses are running regularly, there are few taxis, their drivers touting for business – but in vain. Those that are out and about after the New Year holiday shun public transport.

The president has ‘ordered’ the nation back to work. The many thousands of doctors and nurses, over this past month, they have never known anything else; day and night worked off their feet – even more than is usual. The masks out of stock, the beds in the corridors.

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The image of Doctor Li, his efforts to warn of evidence of an unknown virus ‘rewarded’ with a knock at his apartment at 2am, confronted by the police and warned to stop the scaremongering,

His efforts could have drastically reduced the spread of the virus which was blamed on the so-called ‘wet markets’ in Wuhan, a city the size of London, where four-legged creatures, from monkeys to dogs and the snakes and bats are slaughtered live before the eyes to meet the need of the Chinese, their penchant for these ‘delicacies’.

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Nothing is more important than the initials VIP: the red ribbons on the new car, the waiter serving wine in the restaurant and never mind that it is red and the party has ordered fish. Plonk it in the ice-bucket. In a country where the disparity between rich and poor is so great, the Chinese love to flout their wealth to impress their fellow countrymen. To westerners, they make fools of themselves.

But now there is the latest epidemic – the previous two originated in China – and ‘we’re going to beat this devilish thing’. Fine words from Beijing, yet, today, the death-toll has passed 1,000.

The mouth masks are ubiquitous. The people are being ‘good citizens’, and at least the masks prevent the spitting. But when the crisis is past, the dirty habits will recommence. The lavatories are ‘horrendous’ – the words of Sir Alan Donald, British Ambassador to China, in his valedictory dispatch. A new hospital – 1,000 beds – is being built in Beijing in 10 days. CCTV shows it under construction; the red flag is waved, the people shake their fists, vowing to beat this ‘devil of a virus’, but it will need more than fine words to succeed. The unhygienic habits are too ingrained in their culture. There is anger, but there is an arrogance.

But there’s always a scapegoat – heads are rolling today in Wuhan.