With the World Health Organisation (WHO) expected to decide on Thursday whether the coronavirus crisis should be declared an international health emergency, a South African who has been working in Beijing in China has described the current situation as “calm”. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, approximately 7,911 cases have been confirmed. The first confirmed death from the coronavirus infection occurred on 9th January 2020 and since then 170 deaths have been confirmed.
Durban born Yatisha Pillay, who has been working as a primary school teacher for the past two years, currently resides in a district called Tongzhou.
“It is quiet, but calm. We have been advised to stay in our homes and not go out unnecessarily.”
Pillay explained that the South Africans within Tongzhou have formed a group chat on social media to keep each other abreast of any updates.
“We are chatting on the regular and keeping each other updated of any new information that we find and we are keeping as calm as possible,” said Pillay.
The number of cases detected in Beijing since the beginning of the week sat at 91, but this morning that number increased to 111. An appeased Pillay said health officials are doing the best they can to ensure that figure remains stagnant.
“They have been very effective, they have been updating us on the regular, they also stopped long-distance travelling within Beijing so all long-distance travelling with trains, buses, and taxis have stopped.”
Pillay continued by explaining the severe hygiene procedures have been put in place.
“They are advising us to wear masks, the subways in Beijing are being disinfected as well as the taxis on an hourly basis.”
Pillay described that it can be “a little scary” because as a South African it is all new and but she has put her faith in the Chinese officials.
“They have been very up to date with their communication. News is being released in English and in Chinese. We have groups and websites that are being updated on the regular that keep us informed whether it’s an increase in cases or new symptoms that have been discovered.”
China’s State Council announced on Monday that the Lunar New Year will be extended to February 2 across the country; the holiday week was originally from January 24 to January 30.
Pillay said the move to extend the New Year break has been expected as government and healthcare authorities tackle to contain the outbreak.
“For now, all we know is that the semester will be delayed until further notice,” she said.
The proposed date for the semester to start is 17th February. Teachers have been advised to return two weeks before class is set to resume.
“When the school does start, teachers and students will be required to wear face masks, there will be temperature stations put up to monitor and check the temperature before entering the facility,”
Emergency plans have been put into place at schools to strategize if the need arises to evacuate the compound.
Finally, Pillay adds that it would be best suited for those South Africans in Beijing who are wary of contracting the virus to avoid travelling and rather stay indoors, sanitize and wear a face mask when leaving their homes.
“As far as we know here in China, there hasn’t been any South African that has been infected with the virus.”