The inevitable lockdown and we finally had Covid

We went to a nearby park before the lockdown

Life appeared normal in Hefei and we tried to go out as much as possible for groceries or lunch since we knew that we could be locked down any time. Then about a week later, we woke up one morning and it happened. We weren’t sure at first but we noticed the main road outside our building was unusually quiet. There was hardly anyone downstairs and the carpark next door was empty.

Everything was suspended during lockdown of our area

We messaged our landlady and she confirmed that a big section starting from the main road next to our housing estate and a number of streets was cordoned off and locked down. She urged us to go to the shops downstairs to buy food. Not much was left in the shop and we saw some young people stocking up instant noodles and discussed whether they needed potatoes as they didn’t cook. 

The first night of our lockdown. Hardly any traffic on the main road

Considering some of the horror stories one heard about not having supplies or queuing up for hours for PCR testing, we certainly got 5-star treatment during our lockdown. The volunteers dressed in white protective gear head-to-toe (they were called Da Bai 大白meaning Big White for their appearance) knocked on our door every lunchtime to conduct individual PCR test for us. Indeed, our rationale to pick a city with resources paid off. Hefei did have the resources and manpower required to facilitate smooth lockdown operations. 

Then on the third day of lockdown, we got a carton box of fresh food. Then every three days, we got another carton of supplies. It included a huge pack of fresh pork, green vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes and a pomelo.

Our first package of supplies. The customized carton box printed with the governmental statement “People’s government serves the people” 
Our rather abundant three-day supply all free of charge

It was a smart move to have rented a two-bedroom apartment as it meant that we had some space for each of us. Kin practiced on his keyboard and was on the computer for hours reading up on international and Hong Kong news in his own room. I read my books or took on-line university lessons on the Coursera in the other room. And we had plenty of TV series, movies and documentaries in store. Having been on the road for over two years, we both had established a steady routine of exercise and hobbies to keep ourselves fit both mentally and physically. This routine certainly helped us get through the lockdown much easier.

Each day of the lockdown went by pretty quickly with me cooking and washing up among other daily chores!

We were able to order take-aways and the food would be delivered to the table set outside the rear entrance of our building. We also ordered fruit delivery from a shop just next door and placed supermarket orders which would be delivered the next day.

Grateful to have proper healthy home cooked meals during our lockdown

As we lived on the 37th floor, we took advantage of the need to take the garbage to the lobby to get some extra exercise by walking down and then up the stairs. We also went to the rooftop where we joined the other people in our block to enjoy some fresh air and walked around the block. Some also walked their dogs and we had to watch out for dog poo when we took the rooftop stroll.

Caught the sunset during one of our rooftop walks

For Daisy, our cat, I think she had the best time during the lockdown as we were around all the time. She probably wondered why we were home all day. We were so grateful to be with her especially when we heard stories about pets had to be separated or even put down during lockdowns in some parts.

We got to spend more time with Daisy during the lockdown. Daisy loves chilling on our pillows.

Nobody knew how long the lockdown would last. We waited to see if we would get another box of supply as an indicator of the continuation of lockdown. But to our surprise, the lockdown ended the day right after we got our third instalment of supply. Our fridge was stuffed with food by the end of the lockdown. We had so much food after our 10-day lockdown that we had to give away some of our supplies to Yang Yang.

So much food after the lockdown! We were very lucky as many in various parts of China hardly got any supplies during lockdown.

We went out to lunch with Yang Yang to celebrate the end of our lockdown. When we first left our lobby entrance, we saw loads of goods stacked along the pavement as all the courier services suspended during the lockdown kept unloading the backlog of goods. I never felt so happy to hear the hustle and bustle of the city again after ten super quiet days. To be able to walk outside again and saw the busy traffic and pedestrians on the road was just pure bliss.

We explored the city whenever we could.
Our favourite activity was to explore small coffee shops in the city. Often they were hidden in the old neighbourhood like this one. We saw a young woman having a cigarette all by herself listening to blues music – like one of those moody scenes in a movie. Just the kind of place we wanted to chill.

But our freedom was short-lived as we had our second lock down only a week later. But this time, there were four of us. Yang Yang came to stay with us and the second lock down took place right after her first night with us. She was very anxious as she needed to leave Hefei a few days later to take an examination. She tried calling various departments but she could not get a specific answer of whether she could leave.

Then on the third evening, when we took the garbage to the lobby, we found that it’s different than before as the entrance was not locked and no one guarding outside. So Yang Yang took some of her things and left our building to assess what’s the situation. Then Kin brought the rest of her luggage to her. She stayed at a youth hostel that evening just in case our building would be locked again. And the next day, our lockdown ended.

The second lockdown lasted four days and what a relief to have our freedom back. We quickly had a send off lunch with Yang Yang to wish her examination a success. We were glad that it all went smoothly and she completed her examination at Xuzhou.

But we could see that the Covid situation was deteriorating rapidly due to the massive mobility of people after the national holiday. And the zero covid measures no longer could contain the Omicron virus. Also, many places just could not afford the astronomical costs of daily testing. Cases were rising exponentially all over the country.

We made the best use of our “freedom” and went to the Anhui Art Museum one day.
We saw an immersive exhibit of the French Modernist artist Marc Chagall.

By late November 2022, we knew that we would just have to embrace the imminent wave of infection. And in the first week of December, all PCR testing and compulsory quarantine were lifted across the country.  Up until then, we did not know anyone or heard of anyone had Covid. Then overnight, everyone we know and their family members or friends had Covid.

The tiny bakery behind me was our favourite place for pastries and bread. It’s hidden in a small lane (梨花巷) in the old part of Hefei.
There were many good coffee shops in Hefei. Coffee shop hopping is one of great way to explore a city.

Since all travel restrictions were lifted, we decided to leave Hefei. We drove southward and reached the neighbouring province Jiangxi just before mid December. Initially, the hotels still requested us to log into their contact tracing system to know where we had been. But within days, we did not need to.

What better comfort food than claypot rice with Chinese sausage and meat in a cold evening!

On 16 December, four days after we left Hefei, Kin started feeling tired and then a mild fever followed by a slight dry coughing. We were in a small city Shangrao (上饒) in Jiangxi (江西) by then. We were well prepared on the medicine front. Kin took the Chinese medicine Lianhuaqingwen (蓮花清瘟) for three days. We just vegetated in the hotel room and the only time I went out was to get vegetables from our van to cook noodles in the room. When I went out, I saw that the PCR testing stations were turned into fever stations (發熱站) with queues of people.  

Long strands of handmade noodles being dried outside the shop. These are called long life noodles and the Chinese eat them on their birthdays to celebrate long healthy life.
We had a nice stroll around Shangrao (上饒) just before we came down with Covid. This is an old street and I was admiring the elaborate shopfront of an old Chinese medicine company that used to make and sell its own Chinese medicine tablets and expensive medicine. The Chinese writing on the left says” boiled deer, tortoise, donkey extracts”.

I got Covid two days after Kin. I found the Chinese medicine quite effective for us and both our mild symptoms subsided after three to four days. We both slept a great deal and binged lots of TV. Apart from the lethargy, we were relatively fine and had decent appetite. So basically we were mostly inside the hotel during our time in Jiangxi and when we felt strong enough, we drove southward to Fuzhou in Fujian (福建福州) just before Christmas. Luckily, we both were fully recovered to celebrate the festive season of 2022 in Fuzhou.

Just in time to get into the festive spirit when we arrived in Fuzhou (福州)

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