Living in China During the Outbreak of Coronavirus

Missy Wang, Xiamen, China

Spring festival is the most important holiday for many Chinese people. The number of people traveling during this period during 2019 reached as many as 2.98 billion. [ref. 1]  The 2020 Spring Festival travel rush began on January 10 as people gathered with families. Who could have imagined what we were about to face?

On January 20, the news about a new pneumonia spread among the public. Zhong Nanshan, a medical expert in China, warned the media and government that a virus caused pneumonia, it could spread from person to person, and some medical professionals had been infected in Wuhan city. My partner brought home some masks after work, and told me that his company had shared them with employees. More and more people were wearing masks in the city and we did too.

On January 23, two days before Chinese New Year, the Wuhan government locked the city down at 10 a.m. The numbers of infected people and the death toll were increasing. It was confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO) situation report-24 that by February 13, 46,997 people in the world were confirmed infected with the coronavirus, SARS-COV-2 (which causes the disease currently known as COVID-19)[1]—46,550 people infected in China, with 1,368 deaths. [ref. 2]

For a few weeks, millions of Chinese citizens tried to limit human-to-human transmission by staying at home and the Spring Festival travel rush suddenly disappeared. We were strongly encouraged to isolate ourselves in our local communities to prevent transmission. The streets became quiet, and I could hear birds singing when I opened the window. That was quite rare, since there are about 9,000 families and 30,000 people in the community where I live and my city always has the hustle and bustle outside. Public places such as museums, libraries and cinemas were closed temporarily to avoid crowds and schools were closed.

Measures to prevent coronavirus infection brought lots of changes. The majority of us stayed at home all day long, only going out to buy food. More than 25,000 doctors and nurses came from all over the country to support hospitals in Hu Bei province, and helped to relieve local medical professionals. [ref. 3] After about two weeks my son’s primary school began to provide lessons online.

A mother in my LLL Xiamen Group asked me a question about breastfeeding, but it was no longer safe to hold the in-person meetings at that time. And a home visit was unthinkable. Thankfully technology provided opportunities, and on January 31, I held an online LLL meeting via WeChat, an instant messenger program based in China. During the past seven years as a Leader, I have held online meetings several times. This was the first time to use the video call function so that the attendees could see each other. Five adults joined and I found with a little surprise that during the first several minutes I could see one of them brushing her teeth and the other washing her face, which never happened in a formal LLL Series Meeting!

During the meeting we talked about regular breastfeeding topics until we were approaching the end. During the last five minutes, I invited the participants to share how they were coping with coronavirus and how it affected their daily life.

LLL and other volunteer work are helping me maintain normalcy and lessen pressure in the middle of this unexpected chaos. Besides the LLL online special meeting, I looked for information for breastfeeding families during the breakout of coronavirus. A huge amount of useful information was available, in particular the World Health Organization interim guide [ref. 4] Collecting and sharing information with those who need it makes me feel the bond between us and gives me a sense of belonging.

Chinese people are now trying to resume their normal life at their own pace. And I believe that in the near future, breastfeeding families can exchange hugs and their stories without wearing masks.

Further information

For further information see LLLI’s media release Continuing to Nurse Your Baby Through Coronavirus (2019-nCoV; COVID-19) and Other Respiratory Infections. Available translations (accessed from the same link) include Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Hungarian, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Japanese, German with more planned.

Missy Wang has been a Leader of LLL Xiamen, China, for seven years and beyond basic Leader responsibilities, worked first as the Associate Coordinator of Leader Accreditation for LLL Future Areas in Asia and Middle East, and after that as Coordinator of Leader Accreditation.  Missy is now a Communication Skills Department Facilitator. She has a nine-year-old son.

  1. Ministry of transport : nearly 3 billion people travelled during 2019 spring festival travel rush,
  2. WHO Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report – 24
  2. WHO Home care for patients with suspected novel coronavirus (nCoV) infection presenting with mild symptoms and management of contacts, 2019

[1]  The virus was named by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) as “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2,” abbreviated as SARS-CoV-2.  This virus causes “Coronavirus Disease 2019,” which was named by the World Health Organization and abbreviated as COVID-19.


Update on March 19, 2020

In the two months since most Chinese people learned about this coronavirus, we have made great efforts and passed the darkest times.  On March 17, some provinces used charter flights or vehicles to bring back medical workers dispatched to Hubei province. The first group consisted of 41 teams comprising 3,675 medical workers. To combat COVID-19, 346 medical teams totalling 42,600 healthcare professionals came to help from all over China. On March 18, no new infections of the novel coronavirus were reported in Wuhan, the epicenter of the epidemic. Confirmed cases on the same day were 34, all of them imported from overseas.

As for daily life, the focus is on economics, and the government is encouraging companies to work normally and is providing necessary temporary measures such as reducing tax for some small companies. In Xiamen, my hometown, outdoor public places were reopened on February 22 so that people could relax and exercise, but indoor places such as libraries and museums remain closed. My son is still learning online at home and he is longing to return to his primary school, hopefully at the beginning of April.