Coronavirus: China slowly returns to normal
This was supposed to be a special and happy week of celebrations, fun and laughter, because my daughter Hayley’s thirteenth birthday falls these days. instead we will celebrate quietly, and a little subdued, at home, with only mom and dad singing “Happy birthday” and eating the cake.
If I’m sorry? Well, obviously it’s a huge disappointment for Hayley, who spent months organizing his party, thrilled at the thought of finally becoming a teenager. But the positive side of these weeks of imprisonment for the whole city, in compliance with the strict provisions of the Government, is that in Beijing today the coronavirus is under control. Really, we probably live in the safest metropolis in the world right now, with a very low number of new infections every day, all caused by the return of residents from abroad.
Hayley understands the situation – “about”, as she would say. He knows he lived one of the worst crises that modern China has gone through, she was unable to go to school, was told that it was preferable not to see friends, to reduce the risk of infection, and understood that leaving the country, for the moment, is impossible.
The quarantine rules in Beijing are very extensive, and have been applied very rigidly. My husband Mark had to go abroad for work last week and will now have to observe two weeks of quarantine at home, and will not be able to go out for his ten kilometers of daily run to the park. As if that were not enough, Hayley’s grandmother cannot come to visit us because she is in the hospital, recovering after a hip surgery.
Beijing’s gradual return to normal
© Lintao Zhang
Only up to six weeks ago the prospect of having to be confined to the house would have been unthinkable, not to mention the idea of Europe and the United States in lockdown virtual. In January, I left London and Paris, cities that sprang energy, still only vaguely aware of the coronavirus emergency – to return to a sad China, with hundreds of deaths every day.
Beijing, the capital, where I live, has issued a series of measures to try to curb the contagion which, in the end, have proved effective. The detection of temperature has become mandatory in residential complexes, shopping malls and office buildings, people stopped gathering, started wearing masks, schools were closed indefinitely, bars and restaurants were without customers, the streets normally blocked by traffic were free of cars, trucks and buses. These extreme measures have stopped the spread of the virus, at least for now.
After six weeks of draconian measures, life slowly returns to normal: the shops are open, a few customers are starting to see, the bars and restaurants are operational, although there can be a maximum of three people sitting at each table, and at a safe distance.
In short, the city seems to have regained the atmosphere of the big city, but also the feeling that the very structure of social life has changed. Here in China we feel we have come out of the nightmare, but gradually and with apprehension: we do not feel like celebrating, but we are relieved and grateful, because we are alive and healthy.
Beijing is deserted during the toughest days of the lockdown
© Kevin Frayer
Hayley easily adapted to online lessons, creating a solid routine. There is no shortage of bus trips, an hour to go to school at Dulwich College, today it takes less than a minute to connect, but she misses her many friends terribly. From time to time he can chat with his classmates online, and he does it, but every day he is the same as the other, and there are very few things to gossip or laugh about.
As far as I’m concerned, remote work it turned out to be an extremely effective way to perform all my duties as editor of Vogue China. I make video conferences and phone calls all day, and only a small break for lunch. I was able to confront the staff members with whom I usually don’t spend a lot of time, and I was able to get to know them better, which is not always possible during the endless days in the office, where the main part of the job is to receive the brand managers and stylists international, not to mention frequent trips abroad.
My constant thought has been to try to turn negative circumstances into something positive. The long period of isolation in Beijing allowed me to focus more on the digital part of Vogue China, with a detailed evaluation of the team and a review of our structure and our operating methods. I believe that thanks to this, the team and the operating sector are ready and prepared for the next surge in activity once the crisis has passed.
But there is also a negative side, such as the lack of social interaction and the lively discussions between colleagues in which everyone is involved, and which often lead to great and new creative ideas. Also not being able to travel makes us feel repressed and frustrated (I’ve been absent from all four fashion weeks, and had to rely on live streaming).
In the city that slowly comes to life
© Fred Lee
And on this subject I am a bit ambivalent. I must admit that I missed the excitement of the live fashion shows, the enthusiasm of seeing new extraordinary items and the possibility of going for a drink or dinner with long-time friends and colleagues. But now I can fully understand the idea that, perhaps, there are too many parades and too many trips for each annual round.
And this, I’m sure, will be a topic of discussion for the coming months and years, while there fashiontogether with other sectors, it will change and adapt to the post coronavirus world. On a personal level I am absolutely sure of one thing: when Hayley can finally throw the party for her thirteenth birthday, it will be a real show, a lively celebration of her entry into adolescence and, of course, of life itself. The clothes for his party have already been chosen and are hung, rather melancholy, in his closet, ready to go into action …
Angelica Cheung he is the editor of Vogue China
This article was published on Vogue.com