Good Morning, it’s Friday here in Shanghai and we are reporting slightly hazy skies, traffic on the street, and jackhammer noises from construction sites that are returning back to work. Normally these occurrences spark aggravation in those who call Shanghai home. But now, these are welcomed sights and sounds of a city getting back to life. If you are counting, it is day 55 from the start of the COVID-19 social distancing restrictions in China. Many friends reached out asking how we were coping? Now, they are reaching out about social distancing survival tools that we used to stay sane.
As a new wave of Shanghai residents come back from their extended stays elsewhere, cases are on the rise again. However, advanced tracking methods and designated quarantine areas keep infected people or suspected cases from an otherwise virus-free city. February 25, no new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Shanghai. From that day, the number plateaued at 335. Yesterday, China hits a new milestone! No new domestic cases. Today, we are cleared officially to engage back to life (even without masks). Much of that is owed to people respecting the situation, limiting contact with the general public, and being patient.
Coming to Terms with Social Distancing
I am taking over the eOasia blog not to talk about travel, but how we have dealt with our time in “lockdown”. We definitely knew the situation was worse than reported before we left for the Chinese New Year holiday. But we never imagined the place we are in today. As we arrived at the airport (masks on), an air of somber anticipation to board planes took over. The airport was silent even though it was packed with travelers. Two days later, announcements were made that the holiday would be extended one week. A few days after that, complete shutdown. We knew our Shanghai would be very different upon our return.
A City of 25 Million People Stayed Away From Public Places
And it was. The city of 25 million was locked down. Bars, restaurants, malls, museums, and parks (including Disney) were shuttered and doors were sealed. Registration at airports and residential compounds mandatory. Friends had varying degrees of movement. Some experienced a complete lockdown with limited passes to leave and reenter while others had freedom of movement but were not allowed to receive visitors. Lucky or not, our compound allowed guests if you had been in Shanghai 14 days already. We had free movement but nowhere to go and we definitely could not congregate. Supermarkets stayed open but operated mainly on delivery. Fresh foods were limited during the first couple of days as supply chains were disrupted from other provinces. But they quickly came back. Although sanitizing soap and gel were on short supply, toilet paper was everywhere!
Where You In Quarantine?
For the most part, the city of Shanghai took away places to gather but they did not confine us to our homes. This was only done in places that were considered hot spots for spread. If you were on a plane or came in contact with someone who later tested positive, you would receive a call and community health volunteers would check to make sure you stayed at home. If you presented with symptoms, a visit to the doctor for a throat swab and a Chest CT was ordered. If you tested negative for COVID-19, you were free to return home. As more people are returning back from other outbreak areas, cCOVID-19 testing happens before you quarantine at home, or a designated hotel before returning to normal life. Now, quarantine means staying isolated.
If you can make peace with the situation, you are on the way to social distancing survival.
The decision to shut down a country of 1.3 billion people is monumental. Containment is key. It works. We are a true testament to that and to the millions of people that respected the need for short term discomfort for long term gain. We see signs of recovery as businesses return back to almost full operation. But as your neighborhoods shut down, can you gain from our experience? How do you prevent panic and fear from entering your thoughts? The first step to survival is acceptance.
Social Distancing Survival Tools
As we sit on the other side of what is now a global crisis, I look back at the things we did to keep our sanity. Having a city closed for weeks creates unease and anxiety in the present, but also stress for what is to come as the economy attempts to rebuild. We are thankful not to have contracted the virus and our thoughts go out to families who lost loved ones. It stands to reason that fear and anxiety reared its ugly head more than once. Gaining control of your own fear and anxiety is key.
Create A Quiet Place and Be Quiet (Just for A Few Moments)
My personal go-to to calm my nerves is Vipassana meditation, a breathing practice that requires full focus on your breathing letting all other thoughts go. A short session helped to calm my need to worry about things outside of my control. There are many apps you may have already downloaded such as Headspace (which offers a beginner meditation for free) or Calm. Just a few minutes a day can do wonders for stress and anxiety.
Other Coping Mechanisms to Help Pass the Time
Remember, social distancing does not equal isolation. Isolate if you have come in contact with someone who has contracted the virus or cannot trace their contacts with others for 14 days. Otherwise, go for a walk, get some fresh spring air, and try to be as normal as possible.
Create a Routine
Working in your pajamas is great for a few days but then it gets old. Start your day like normal which includes going outside the house and coming back in. If you have dogs, this goes without saying. Walking is necessary. As a side, your dog will take homestay as an invitation to all day attention. Beware of getting sucked into sad eyes for attention. It’s a black hole with no return. You have been warned.
You are now the Teacher as well as the Parent
As schools contemplate e-learning to ensure students stay on task with their studies, check out these helpful hints from Shanghai Family Magazine Contributor and Principal of the British International School Shanghai, Andrew Lancaster, on how to keep children actively engaged in e-learning. For something a bit different, spice up downtime with Holly Sharp’s just-released website www.dreamitandoit.com with 100 activities that require little setup and might just find your kid’s passion.
Back Away from the News
Stay engaged but turn off the 24/7 news channel. Your movement is restricted and it will be for some time. The news will be the same. Check for local updates to stay current with your community directives. But otherwise, focus on your well being and those around you.
Keep your House Sanitized
Leave your shoes outdoors. Disinfect your doorknobs regularly. Open packages outside and wash your hands immediately afterward. Although extra measures will be taken for the effective handling of packages, the virus can stay on surfaces for several hours. It is also wise to wipe down your phones, tablets, and keyboards on a regular basis. Key takeaway, if your hands are not dry and cracking without lotion, then you need to wash more often.
Find humor in the situation.
Find humor. Laughter is great for the soul. Captivity can create for trying times but also can create incredible moments of humor. Be silly and creative. Remember, nobody is watching (unless you upload to youtube).
If you have a group of people that can trace their origins and contacts, do not be afraid to meet. Keep it small and simple. We created a test kitchen and had guest chefs make delicious plates using mystery items from our freezers (All guests had been in Shanghai 14 days and received the green light to be social).
Use Social Media for good.
Check on those who are alone. What’s App, Facetime, and Facebook can be great tools to stay connected especially those whose mobility is limited and live alone. Refrain from negativity. It does not help. Many people are scared and worried. Many questions will be asked then asked again. If you do not have the time or patience to respond positively, then do not respond at all.
Most important to remember.
Life will return. It will be different. When that happens, count your blessings and return back to being an active participant in society. Thank you for visiting eOasia.com.
As a side note, the travel and tourism industry was the first to be hit by the virus bringing travel to a halt. Food & Beverage follows close behind. Many destinations are practicing their own social distancing making tours unavailable. Each day, the situation is changing. During this time, we are supporting the efforts to contain the virus and will continue to provide uplifting travel tips and destinations on our website and blog. We suggest before you book, contact your provider. We are here and ready to answer. Support@eOasia.com.
Since there is no restriction on dreaming, check out some of our blogs to keep you entertained. We can’t wait to see you traveling again.
written by Rebecca, a contributor to eOasia’s blog.