Our China and Taiwan colleagues live in big cities where they have already “flattened the curve” of Covid-19 since mid-February. They are, in fact, living in the future — which could be “our future” in a few months — if we get lucky...
Countries around the world are implementing lockdown measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus. More than a third of the planet’s population is now under orders to stay at home
Being cooped up at home is beginning to test our patience. Three weeks, with no end in sight, feels like an eternity.
We try not to count days, but we can’t help thinking when, how, or even if the nation can flip a switch and revert to normal. Is there even a switch?
We’re wearying of Zoom, Facetime and Skype. We picture the day when we can see, touch and embrace our friends, families, neighbors and colleagues again. In the darkest moments, though, we do wonder if we’ll ever be able to resume shaking hands and hugging.
EE Times decided to peek into the future, by getting in touch with our colleagues in Asia. Many live in big cities in China and Taiwan that have already “flattened the curve” of Covid-19 since mid-February.
They are living in the future — it could be our future in a few months — if we get lucky. We asked our Asia team to take photos of what they saw in the week of April 6 in Shenzhen, Shanghai, Beijing and Taipei.
Before sharing those images, a bit of background.
First, most of our colleagues have been back in the office since February 17. So, what you are about to see is their life in Week 8 after the lifting of “stay-at-home.”
We should also note one exception. One of our colleagues spent China’s spring festival in Hubei and ended up stuck there for 62 days; she got home only recently. You can follow her journey home here. In Hubei, the travel ban didn’t end until late March. Domestic passenger flights at Wuhan only resumed at midnight April 8.
Second, we should be all aware that the Chinese endured a much stricter lockdown, nothing like what we are experiencing today in the other countries. For example, one of our colleagues said she had never — not even once — stepped outside her home during the lockdown in Shenzhen.
Cities such as Wenzhou, Zhejiang, reportedly implemented a seven-day lockdown during which only one person per household was allowed to exit once every other day. Most highway exits were blocked.
In that context, China’s initial “post-lockdown” euphoria was huge. Every facet of life, from just getting out of the house to reuniting with colleagues in the office and seeing traffic revive on the highway became cause for celebration, triggering a wave of picture-sharing on social media.
The images we’ve compiled in the following pages trace a gradual process that covers the past two months. This is a profile of the “new normal” in China.
04/06/2020, Shanghai. Metro staff worker, People Square metro station (Photo: Illumi Huang)
Yes, subways are running. Fewer passengers, but the number is growing. Gyms, movie theaters? Forget about it. Still closed. Starbucks and McDonald’s, yay, they’re open!
Two months after the lockdown ended, schools remain closed and kids are still home-schooled.
Apple stores, reopened, already have many customers. Evidently, Chinese consumers didn’t exactly give up on their iPhone touch-screens.
Tourism is clearly down. The Bund in Shanghai remains a popular tourist magnet, but with far fewer people.
The two-meter physical distance rule is eroding in big cities. One of our editors in Taipei reports that the suggested distance now is 1.5 meters indoors and a meter outdoors (roughly 6.5 feet, 5 feet, and 3.5 feet respectively). You can see passengers in the subway trying to distance, but at rush hour all bets are off.
Meanwhile, masks are ubiquitous. It’s hard to spot a soul without a mask outdoors in Asian cities these days.
One point that’s essential about post-lockdown China: This is a nation determined to continue to “test, trace and track” Covid-19.
Eight weeks after the lockdown, body temperature is still measured every time an employee arrives at the office. Consumers in shopping malls are subject to similar treatment. The same QR code is plastered on almost all public transportation. To track their movements and health status, all passengers are asked to scan the code with a Wechat/Alipay app and submit their smartphone and ID card numbers.
Shanghai gets back to work
04/04/2020, Shanghai. A building worker approaching construction equipment. (Photo: Illumi Huang)
Sparse seating is required, if possible
04/01/2020, 07:10 am, Beijing Subway BaTong Line. Due to the coronavirus, the Beijing Subway controlled the number of passengers, and the passengers also kept sufficient distance. At the same time, many citizens choose to drive to work.
04/08/2020 Taipei. In the cabin of Metro Taipei, passengers try to keep distancing as much possible, but only if you are lucky enough to be able to avoid the rush hours while commuting.
04/06/2020, Shanghai. Passengers are going down into the metro station. Note, everyone is wearing a mask.
04/06/2020, Shanghai. Passengers on the subway. The photo was taken on a holiday in China known as Tomb-Sweeping Day.
04/02/2020, 09:50 am, a gym in Beijing. It still remains closed to prevent people from gathering.
(Photo: George Qiao)
Where are the customers?
04/06/2020, Shanghai. Even a restaurant’s mascot puts on a medical mask.
04/07/2020 Shenzhen. Thank God, McDonald’s back!
So is Starbucks!
Transparent divider put in place
04/10/2020, Taipei. A transparent divider is put in place on tables at a food court in Taipei so that customers facing one another can protect themselves.
What about take-out?
04/07/2020, Shenzhen. Just outside Aspencore’s Shenzhen office, a take-out deliveryman is calling his customer. This is one big step in the recovery process — during the epidemic, all deliverymen were forbidden to enter the building and customers had to come our to take their food.
Protective gear in place
04/03/2020, Shenzhen. No kidding. In the morning, I took a Didi Taxi. The driver fixed a plastic film between the front and rear seats to minimize contact between passengers and the driver. At the same time, drivers and passengers inside the car must wear masks, and vehicles need to be disinfected regularly.
04/03/2020, Shenzhen. This double-decker bus was full in the lower deck, but nearly half on the higher deck (shown below), with everyone wearing a mask. Before the Covid-19 outbreak, the bus was usually full at both decks.
04/07/2020, Taipei, The photographers of news media wearing masks in a media briefing hosted by Ministry of Science and Technology. It’s really not easy to keep social distancing when we are on duty.
In a media briefing, journalists and interviewees are all “in the mask”. Although the online meeting is a new normal throughout the world, we still think, in Taipei, “seeing is believing,” and onsite press conferences are necessary.
04/07/2020, Taipei. Newly suggested social distance over here is 1.5 meters indoors, and 1 meter outdoors. Below, the wholesale market in Taipei draws lines on the floor in front of the cashier to remind their customers to keep social distancing from others.
04/06/2020, Shanghai. Many residential neighborhoods in Shanghai commonly hang an anti-epidemic banner. It reads: “Work together. Pull out all the stops. Fight against coronavirus. We’ll win — Chenhang property management company”
04/07/2020, Taipei. Wearing the mask while taking public transportation has become mandatory. Anyone violates the rule will be fined. Here is a billboard with the notice in the Metro Taipei
04/06/2020, Shanghai. Nanjing Road pedestrian zone, one of the most bustling areas of Shanghai, is lively again.
(Photo: Illumi Huang)
Everyone appreciates the return of ordinary moments.
04/04/2020 Two boys hanging out together and catching the sunset on the Qingming festival holiday (Tomb Sweeping Day.)
04/06/2020, Shanghai. A young lady’s trying to pour out some rainbow candy with the help of M&M staff.
— Captions and photos were contributed by: Echo Zhao, Judith Cheng, Illumi Huang, Lefeng Shao, Franklin Zhao, Momo Zhong, Sudan Hong, Elaine Lin and George Qiao