Thousands out of quarantine, but an uncertain winter looms just around the corner

Andy Boreham
Five local communities are now free again after being thrown into strict lockdown following a handful of local COVID-19 cases. As the weather cools down, could your place be next?
Andy Boreham

Five Shanghai communities are now free again after being thrown into strict lockdown following a handful of local COVID-19 cases last month. As the weather cools down, could your place be next?

On December 4, I got a call from the boss asking if I would come to the office for a midnight live broadcast. The last time we had such a late streaming session was when we welcomed in the new year on December 31, 2019 – blissfully unaware of the horrors that would come in 2020.

The topic this time: the release from quarantine of the Mingtianhuacheng housing complex in the Pudong New Area, where 6,000 residents (and a hapless taxi driver dropping off a tenant right at the wrong time) were held up for the past 14 days under strict quarantine after two former residents tested positive for novel coronavirus.

The news for them was good, in the end, and they were all allowed out again after each and every one of them underwent three COVID-19 tests, all showing up negative.

The atmosphere leading up to the end of their little quarantine was so festive, perhaps owing to the upcoming holiday season, that media from all across Shanghai decided to live broadcast from the gate of the community the moment residents were set free. That included us here at Shanghai Daily. At midnight.

As the clock struck 12, we crossed live to our reporter on the ground who relayed the jubilance and joy as police took down the barricades and those inside — well, at least those who had bothered to stay up so late — took a symbolic waltz of freedom out the gate, mostly just to stand outside their former quarantine zone and enjoy the atmosphere.

“It’s a night of warmth,” our reporter Amanda gushed as she shivered, without a hint of irony, in the frigid temperature.

Thousands out of quarantine, but an uncertain winter looms just around the corner
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

A security guard removes barricades as the Mingtianhuacheng residential complex is released from coronavirus lockdown.

That’s when it suddenly hit me: we are fast entering winter again, my favorite season, but also the season COVID-19 prefers the most. It’s in the wet and cold that the virus is most happy.

As the weather has cooled down over the past few weeks we’ve had an insight into what that means. Domestic cases are slowly popping up around the city after more than four months without a single instance. That means it’s time to pull out the old playbook again and make sure we’re still doing all we can to protect ourselves.

Sure, the development of vaccines is already well under way and showing promising results, with some countries already offering free injections to citizens, but it doesn’t mean we can let our guards down.

According to the World Health Organization, the arrival of widespread vaccination programs will be no magic bullet.

Thankfully we’re lucky enough to live in a country that has the virus pretty well under control, with a government and people ready to make sacrifices for the good of us all. But we’re still learning every day about COVID-19 and how it manifests itself, so it’s best that we all ensure that every day we’re taking the simple steps we started learning nearly a year ago.

Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently. Don’t touch your face, especially your eyes and mouth. Wear a mask in crowded areas.

With five housing complexes already locked down just recently in Shanghai, affecting tens of thousands, you just never know. One thing you can be sure of, though, is that if it becomes a fairly common thing, you won’t have media waiting outside to celebrate freedom with you like they did at the Mingtianhuacheng complex in Pudong last weekend.

But hopefully, in another year or so, we’ll look back on 2020 with a smile and wonder how we even got through it.

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