Opinion

Memoirs Of Fijian A Year On In Wuhan, China

In a series of articles, we will doc­ument how COVID-19 came to be­ing, its devastating effect and how it has changed the whole dynamics of how things are done.
13 Dec 2020 11:42
Memoirs Of Fijian A Year On In Wuhan, China
Eroni Duaibe with his wife Asi Turagavou Biyaukula in Wuhan

One year has passed since the COVID-19 was discov­ered and a lot has happened since.

I wish to take us on a trip down memory lane and to look back at how we have progressed.

In a series of articles, we will doc­ument how COVID-19 came to be­ing, its devastating effect and how it has changed the whole dynamics of how things are done.

We will also discuss our adjust­ment into what we can now call “A New Normal”.

It was around this time last year when there was a lot of hype about Christmas and the end of an­other decade.

While a lot of people planned their annual travels, exploring new des­tinations, airlines were thriving in making profits. Two of the most de­sired career for young people were either being a pilot or a steward in an airline as this entails travels to various destinations.

But then, something happened. Around November of 2020, several individuals in Wuhan, China had fallen ill to a mysterious virus.

These individuals were clustered together as all of them were linked to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market where exotic animals were sold as delicacies.

Even though wild animals were being blamed for this great tragedy, evidence were pointing at human-to-human transmission.

December 1, 2019

On December 1, 2019, a whole new case was discovered totally unre­lated to the seafood market cluster.

Experts in Wuhan were still un­able to identify the genetic make-up of this mysterious virus, but were able to compare it to that of Se­vere Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). It was later classified as a Novel Coronavirus and later given the name COVID-19.

January 23, 2020

Two days before the Chinese New Year on January 23, 2020, the Chi­nese Government took the most draconian measure to be able to curb the spread of the deadly virus that had spiraled out of control.

At 1000 hours on that day, railways, subways, ferries and long-distance buses came to a standstill as the municipalities issued a directive for lockdown.

As it was drawing near to the Chi­nese New Year, a lot of migrant workers based in Wuhan and a lot of Wuhan residents that were in other places in China and around the world were travelling in order to be home in time for the New Year.

Many were unable to leave the city, let alone go back to their respective homes but had to find refuge in var­ious places across the city as night fell.

Underground car parks became makeshift shelters as the tempera­ture that night dropped to 5-Degrees Celsius. On that day, thousands of individuals were searching for a suitable shelter and the number of confirmed cases had reached 495 which was ten times the number two weeks earlier.

Even before the lockdown, there was a deafening silence along the streets of Wuhan as fear had gripped the city. People rushed to supermarkets to stock up on basic food items.

Places in the city that were always crowded had lesser and lesser peo­ple as the days progressed.

Pharmacies were also a targeted place as people also realised the need to stock up on medical sup­plies.

As the days went by, more and more people became infected with the virus.

The 38,000 licensed medical work­ers who were residents in Wuhan were really stressed as the virus progressed. People turned up in numbers at the fever clinics as the city’s medical system were feeling the strain and would buckle at any time.

Health workers worked extended shifts and were not allowed to go home as the seriousness of the vi­rus became apparent to authorities.

Two days into the lockdown, work commenced on a new hospital.

This hospital would have 1000 beds and would be specially designed to treat COVID-19 cases.

Authorities realised that these 1000 beds would not be enough and they further planned for a 1600 beds emergency hospital. On Chinese New Year’s Eve, a time when fami­lies would enjoy together, more than 1200 medical workers from across China were assembled to help Wuhan in its fight against the virus.

January 31, 2020

It was not until January 31, 2020 that the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of Inter­national Concern.

At this stage, the fight against this deadly mysterious virus was not just about Wuhan, but had become a global concern.

Director of WHO, Tedros Adha­nom Ghebreyesus in making this declaration said that, “The main reason for this declaration is not because what is happening in China. Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health sys­tems.”

February 2, 2020

On February 2, 2020, a glimpse of hope appeared on the horizon as the newly-built hospital swung into operation and started to treat critical patients. However, Wuhan was faced with another dilemma. A shortage of test kits stalled the pro­cess of confirming cases and there were still not enough hospital beds to cater for the large influx of cases tested positive. Authorities were adamant to isolate all those posi­tive cases in order to keep the other nine million that were in lockdown safe. By this time more than 10,000 medical workers from the whole of China had sent to Wuhan to assist and this number doubled and tri­pled in weeks to follow.

Dozens of quarantine centres were opened across the city. Those who were in quarantine were those in close contact with confirmed pa­tients, fever patients and those with clinical symptoms who were yet to be confirmed.

By the third week of the lock­down, more cases were confirmed and this resulted in further short­age of hospital beds to allow isola­tion for these patients. With more suspected cases on the rise, the authorities decided to convert pub­lic buildings such as stadiums and convention centres into temporary hospitals.

In the fight against the virus a good number of health workers be­came infected with the virus. With more than 3000 workers getting in­fected, a few of them never recov­ered and lost their lives.

February 12, 2020

By February 12, more than 10,000 new cases were confirmed and this surge came about when health au­thorities used clinical symptoms rather than relying on slow tests to confirm infections.

It was on the same day that Presi­dent Xi Jinping convened another meeting of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Com­munist Party. At the completion of the meeting, there was a consensus that “Formalism and Bureaucracy had become the biggest enemies in the fight against the Virus”.

The very next day, Hubei saw a change in leadership both at the provincial level and Wuhan at the municipal level.

This change in leadership ush­ered in a more stringent measure to curb the spread of the virus and tackle the epidemic.

More help arrived as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) sent in an­other 1400 medical personal to Wu­han.

Personnel and supplies were flown into Wuhan in 11 military aircrafts.

It was the first time that China’s Xi’an Y-20 transport plane was used in an operation other than military combat ones. The military person­nel were selected out of the mil­lions military medics and many of them had some experience in deal­ing with SARS. At this point, Wu­han had about 30,000 medical work­ers from 29 provinces and regions.

February 17, 2020

By February 17, 2020, Wuhan said that the city was able to quaran­tine all people. Those infected were isolated, while the safe ones were also restricted in their movements. Movements were only limited to those workers in essential services. Health workers conducted door-to-door checks, taking body tempera­tures and checking for any fever like symptoms.

  • This is a special series from Eroni Duaibe, a Fijian pursuing his PhD student in International Politics at the Central China Normal University in Wuhan, Hubei.


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