Coronavirus: A first-person account of a month of self-quarantine in Shenzhen

As fears about Covid-19 continue to spread, one writer finds comfort in minimalism, positivity and a sense of community

Veronica Lin |

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The quarantine has helped the writer appreciate minimalism and working together with her neighbours.

Sitting here and typing up my second first-person account, it’s hard to believe that I’ve already spent an entire month in self-quarantine in Shenzhen, unable to return to Hong Kong. However, in the meantime, I’ve been enjoying my new life as a minimalist, as well as much higher efficiency and improved focus whilst working from home. 

This city I grew up in has always felt eerily foreign to me pre-virus, but is now more familiar than ever. Unlike Hong Kong, there’s very few people in the streets - there’s no one lining up to buy masks or any signs of panic buying at all. We might get a few extra days’ worth of supply but very rarely do we go on shopping sprees. Also, most of our orders are via WeChat or other online platforms.  

In contrast to the panic buying and hospital workers going on strikes, across the border, there’s a steel-strong sense of community that I’ve felt from the very beginning. Neighbours have been helping each other out by sourcing masks and fresh produce. My mum, for instance, offered some line-caught fish to friends in an adjacent building after they gave us some of their homegrown vegetables. 

Read Veronica's first piece, four days into quarantine

Also, everyone I meet these days, post-outbreak, feels like family to me - from cleaners and security guards, to neighbours and strangers I’ve never had the pleasure of crossing paths with - and we’re always sending each other this unspoken message: “We are all in this together!”

The positive attitude amongst Shenzheners - medical professionals and other citizens alike - has paid off.  We now have our own unique quarantine systems and have developed numerous ways to minimise the risk of infection whilst allowing everyday operations to run smoothly.  

For instance, packages are delivered to only one of the complex gates, which is now a temporary post office. Security guards from each phase or building then collect them from the gate and distribute them accordingly. Also, we now need passes to enter and exit the complex, and “outsiders”, or those who’ve travelled from another city, must self-quarantine at home for 14 days. 

How students are keeping themselves sane during the coronavirus outbreak

Don’t get me wrong - whilst the atmosphere is generally quite positive, we are always vigilant when it comes to protecting ourselves and others. There are bins in all elevators as well as tissues for us to use when pressing buttons, and security guards are all masked up, with some in head-to-toe protective gear, even!

Luckily, we haven’t had a single confirmed case in more than a week, except one where a British national had traveled to the city via Hong Kong and tested positive yesterday. It’s infuriating that whilst mainlanders travelling to Hong Kong have to be put in mandatory self-quarantine for 14 days, the same does not apply to anyone travelling via Hong Kong to the mainland. Apart from that particular case, we’ve also had a huge influx of Koreans in my complex who are allegedly coming to China for free coronavirus treatments.

Hopefully, things will continue to improve in the coming weeks and the Huang Gang border checkpoint will reopen soon. In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy my newfound happiness, improved focus and minimalist lifestyle, whilst staying vigilant and healthy at the same time.