“Life is beautiful” in a China under a bell


“In China, we have resumed our previous life. “ When Nathalie Wu, 32, wanted to join her retired parents last month vacationing on the island of Hainan – “Chinese Florida” – the idea that the coronavirus could prevent it did not come to her. not even crossed my mind. Patron of a gym in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, she booked her tickets, packed her bags, and got on the plane. “No need for a PCR test to circulate in China”, she says. “You can travel without any restrictions. “ Something that is still a dream for the rest of the planet.

More than a year after the start of the Covid-19 epidemic in Wuhan, China has clearly contained the coronavirus which continues to wreak havoc around the world, where there have been 150 million cases and more than three million dead. “I know that it is difficult to make French friends accept that there are hardly any cases of Covid in all of China”, smiles 45-year-old Lian Kung, principal of a private school in Hangzhou. ” But here we no longer even wear a mask in the street. “ Thousands of people gather at concerts or festivals, hundreds at exhibitions, cinemas, bars and restaurants. “All the provinces are ingreen zone ””, Lian explains again.

The last outbreaks of infection date back to January 2v021, and the last one died on January 14, in Heilongjiang and Hebei provinces in the north of the country. Alerted by a few cases, the local authorities sealed off the contamination sites placed in the “red zone”. All neighborhoods were surrounded by police and civilian militias from the district.

The inhabitants and those who had simply crossed this area the previous days were geolocated. They saw their QR health code turn red on their phone: home confinement, total ban on going out. The patients were hospitalized and quarantined, the populations tested and then… released. Two weeks later, after a widespread testing campaign, the local epidemic was contained. China’s Covid encephalogram has since remained flat.

Despite the effectiveness of these measures, it would no doubt be difficult to gain acceptance in France of this “Warlike approach”. “China has never ceased to be on the verge of war », Repeats the French doctor Philippe Klein, who participated in humanitarian aid in Wuhan last year, during the confinement of seventy-six days. In his eyes, the French authorities have never succeeded in creating “A fear of the virus” strong enough to get such extreme measures accepted.

“The regime sacrificed our freedoms in the name of public health, and I must admit it was right”, admits in any case Ming, the first to criticize the authoritarianism of the Communist Party last year. She moved three months ago to Shanghai with her two children, and can travel to Wuhan every month to meet her parents and her husband who works there. “Despite the wounds of the past, the epidemic already seems far away, and life is good today in China”, she dares to let go.

This ruthless strategy of internal control could not have borne fruit without an almost total closure of the Chinese external borders since March 2020. Chinese nationals were allowed to return with strict health controls and fortnight in designated “Covid hotels” : a first quarantine in the city of entry into China (Shanghai and Canton only), followed by another upon arrival at the final destination of seven to fourteen days. For foreigners, on the other hand, it is almost impossible to enter China. Visas “Working” or “Humanitarian” are only granted in small quantities.

A few exceptions, however. Rawya, a young Tunisian French teacher, succeeded in obtaining a work visa a month ago. Well connected to the highest political spheres of his city, the director of his school obtained all the Chinese certificates that Rawya was able to transmit to the Chinese consulate in Tunis.

Then began her very long aerial journey: PCR test from Tunis to Istanbul, where she stayed three days to board, after a new PCR test, bound for Helsinki. She spends two days in transit at the airport, and after a new PCR test, can take off for Shanghai-Pudong, one of the only two airports open to accommodate international flights. She is tested there, as soon as she arrives, before spending fourteen days in quarantine in a hotel, for a total cost of around € 2,000.

“My food was brought to me in front of the door, and a nurse in coveralls would come at 10 am and 2 pm to take my temperature”, she says. “On the last day, I was given a final PCR test, negative, and my boss came to pick me up to drive to my school, a few hundred kilometers from Shanghai. “ Rawya still had to stay there in self-isolation for seven days.

South Korean, Kim, she was lucky to obtain a humanitarian visa to join her European husband in the symbolic city of Wuhan. Under a special agreement between South Korea and China – one of the few of its kind – Kim had no difficulty obtaining it at the Chinese consulate in Busan. But she had to undergo a PCR test on arrival in China and a fortnight in a special Covid hotel. When you arrive in Wuhan, a special health corridor is in place. Local regulations are the most severe in the country with isolation in the apartment of ” three weeks “. Impossible to avoid it, because of the geolocation of telephones and cameras placed in the building and at the exit of the residence … “We also had the instruction not to touch each other”, testifies her husband.

If the planet is still struggling between new epidemic waves and vaccination campaigns, China lives in a health bubble cut off from the outside world. An island preserved from the virus in an ocean still threatened and tormented by the viral storm. Isolated, the immense China-continent seems to live in autarky, withdrawn into itself. “For the Chinese, the outside world is moving away and seems only a distant memory”, notes the writer Alexandre Labruffe, who has lived in Wuhan for several years. And he doesn’t see China reopening its borders anytime soon, with the threat of new variants.

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