Connect with us

China and Covid19

Got Covid? Don’t Panic, Stay Home: China Is Shifting Its Covid Narrative

China changes its Covid approach, and Weibo users are still getting used to the idea: “We are going from one extreme to the other.”

Manya Koetse

Published

on

China’s media narratives around testing positive for Covid have dramatically shifted recently. The seemingly sudden change in Covid approach is making some people happy, but many on Weibo also say it is making them nervous.

“What To Do If You Tested Positive [for Covid]?” (#如果阳了怎么办#) was a top trending topic on Weibo on Tuesday, December 6, when the site was still in grey mode over Jiang Zemin’s death.

The topic, initiated by Chinese state media outlet China News Service (中国新闻网), received over 400 million clicks on Tuesday.

The “What To Do If Testing Positive” hashtag was noteworthy for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the fact that it was initiated by state media and included in the top trending lists of the day is part of the recent normalization of getting Covid in Chinese official media.

Another reason why it was noteworthy, is because the original China News Service post that topped the hashtag page compared Covid to seasonal influenza, writing:

The autumn and winter season is the peak season for the flu. Currently, the epidemic situation is still popping up all over the country, and there is a risk in catching Omicron for special populations such as young children, pregnant women.”

The article that China News Service linked to provides more information intended for Covid-positive children and the protection of pregnant women, provided by the expert physician Qiao Jie (乔杰) of the Peking University Third Hospital and Dr. Wang Quan (王荃) of Beijing Children’s Hospital. In the article, the symptoms of the Omicron strain are also compared to those of the flu, saying that they need to be treated in line with other respiratory illnesses.

The article basically advised the following:

– Parents should seek medical attention for children with a continued high fever and persistent cough.
– Children under three months old with a fever should always be brought in to be seen by a doctor.
– Always seek medical attention for children who are lethargic, have severe pain (including abdominal pain), continue vomiting or have frequent diarrhea, are dehydrated (not urinating for prolonged periods), or have trouble breathing.
– Pregnant women without underlying conditions who get Omicron do not necessarily get sicker than regular patients and can also expect to recover within seven days.
– Pregnant women who get infected with Omicron should contact their midwife.
– Couples of childbearing age are advised to get vaccinated against Covid-19 before seeking pregnancy.

One day after this trending hashtag, news came out that Chinese central authorities will further adjust and optimize the country’s Covid response based on a top-level meeting that took place on December 6 (#中央政治局会议要求优化疫情防控措施#). (Read about the ten new rules in our article here.)

One of the biggest changes in the Covid approach is that people who have tested positive but show mild signs or are asymptomatic will no longer be required to go to a centralized quarantine location. Instead, they can recover at home if they meet certain requirements.

Another major change is that nucleic acid test results and health codes will no longer be checked for domestic cross-regional travel. On Wednesday, the hashtag “Health Code” (#健康码#) became top trending on Weibo, receiving over 390 million views by late afternoon.

This major change in policy, which is basically an end to the ‘zero Covid’ policy as we knew it, was preceded not only by the “What To Do If Testing Positive” hashtag, but also by other media reports on people sharing their Covid experience and the well-known political commentator Hu Xijin writing a Weibo post about him preparing to get Covid soon.

China News Service also published an info sheet on Weibo on December 7 informing people on what to do when they test positive and what they can expect.

The state media outlet reassures people that for most, their symptoms will be gone on day seven. If people are staying at home with Covid and see no change and continue to have a high fever after three days, or if they are having difficulties breathing, they are advised to seek medical care.

Otherwise, people are advised to rest and drink plenty of water.

Beijing News Service (北京新闻广播) wrote: “Tested positive? Don’t panic. If you have no symptoms or light symptoms, just stay at home.”

One popular Weibo blogger (@咖啡布偶猫) wrote:

I feel as if the propaganda has seen a sudden change in direction. During the first half of the year and the epidemic in Shanghai, everyone would get scared the moment you talked about a positive case, they wanted to fiercely chase it and thoroughly reach zero cases. Now they are propagating that we should not panic, that we should accept the reality and actively respond to it, as if it is nothing alarming.”

 
A Successful Zero Covid Journey
 

On December 5, Chinese media outlet The Observer (观察者网) initiated the Weibo hashtag “Three Years Since the Fight Against the Epidemic – We’ve Actually Cleared Covid Many Times” (#抗疫3年其实我们清零了很多次#).

The post featured a video (embedded in tweet below) showing China’s fight against Covid by highlighting regions and numbers. Nearly 32,000 cases across the country in early December of 2022 (at time of writing, there are currently over 42,000 confirmed cases); but for a long time during the Covid pandemic, China officially recorded just a few dozen, up to ten, or even zero cases.

One of the top comments on the post said: “Up to the present, I think that regarding an outbreak of an epidemic virus that caused havoc without us even knowing, driving it out of the country within just a few months, and even sustaining it for some time, is worthy of going into the history books.”

Others write: “One fight against the epidemic has concluded, and another one has begun. Letting go, without zero Covid, it has a happy side and a sad side.”

“Although there were plenty of imperfections in this Covid journey, I still feel the country gave us enough protection when the virus was causing havoc in the early stages.”

“It’s really too strange and it’s a bit spooky everywhere,” another person wrote:

It’s like a computer that has been hit by a Trojan horse virus and has decided to download antivirus software and is 90% of the way there. Now it’s suddenly stopping; not only deliberately shutting down all the firewalls, but there’s also a mess of pop-up windows everywhere promoting games that are “very fun, come on and play!”

Another Weibo user writes: “We seem to have witnessed an era in which our joint memories have been taken from us for three years.”

“It’s over! We’re on our own from now on!” others write.

 
Wait and See Approach
 

Although there is relief among those people who have since long supported an ‘opening up’ of China, there are also many other sentiments that are visible on Chinese social media, most noticeable there is a “let’s wait and see” approach.

Some are waiting to see what will actually change to their situation locally, and others are waiting to see what an easing of Covid measures might mean for China’s healthcare system.

Others express that the new situation makes them feel vulnerable and unsafe.

“Can’t all the people who did not want to open up go and live in one community together?” someone jokingly wrote.

Poster shared on social media: “The Fight Against the Epidemic – The End – It Started in Wuhan, it Ended in Guangzhou”

There are also people who wonder about what will really change for them in the time to come.

Today is a day that is worth remembering in history. The epidemic situation has lasted for three years, and looking back, there have been many times of complete confusion and total transformation. In these three years time, people’s lifestyles have seen drastic changes and we’ve come to understand more about ‘online’ life: online meetings, online groceries, online parties, online studying, and online travel. We’ve gradually become to dislike crowds, and we’ve become used to locked-down life.

For some, being Covid positive is an entirely new experience: “Surely enough, we opened up. Even myself – I don’t even go out – tested positive now.”

Meanwhile, people have been stocking up on various medicine and are getting ready to catch Covid anytime soon.

One Weibo user writes: “Actually, it makes me anxious to open up everything so suddenly, why can’t we do it step by step?”

“I’m not sure if I am happy or nervous,” another person writes: “We’re going from one extreme to the other extreme.”

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

China and Covid19

The “Final Round Players” of China’s Covid Outbreak

Those who still haven’t had Covid have made it to the “finals,” but it’s not always easy to stay positive about still testing negative.

Manya Koetse

Published

on

This Chinese Lunar New Year period, as millions of people are traveling across the country, Hangzhou Daily (杭州日报) posted a video on Weibo of a 13-year-old boy dressed in full protective clothing at the Hangzhou train station.

The young man told the reporter that he was on his way to visit his grandparents for the Chinese New Year. When asked why he was dressed in protective clothing from head to toe, he answered: “Because I haven’t had Covid yet.”

According to the video posted by Hangzhou Daily, the boy has made it to the “Final Rounds” (决赛圈) as he has managed to stay Covid-negative at a time when so many people have already been infected with Covid-19 (#挺进决赛圈的男孩穿防护服坐火车#).

Since China ‘optimized’ the last stringent measures of its ‘Zero Covid’ policy back in early December – including an end to mandatory mass testing, – a wave of Covid infections spread across the country. The number of infections and emergency department visits reportedly reached its peak in late December of 2022 and in early January of 2023.

According to Wu Zunyou (@吴尊友ChinaCDC), chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Center of Disease Control and Prevention, 80 percent of China’s population has now been infected with Covid (“这一波疫情已经使得全国约80%的人感染过”).

As it is getting rarer to come across someone who has not had Covid yet, travelers dressed in full hazmat suits and protective gear are bound to stand out. “So many people on the train, and there are still two people in the crowd wearing protective clothing,” one Weibo user from Guangdong wrote. Others also post photos on social media of some of the few travelers still fully dressed in protective gear.

One blogger photographed a child wearing protective clothing at Chongqing West Station on Jan. 24, calling the protective attire “exaggerated,” and wondering how the child was supposed to go to the toilet.

Photo posted on Weibo by @杨品-光线摄影学院 on Jan 24., 2023.

Traveler wearing protective clothing at Hangzhou East Station, photo by @百鸣老屈.

Hangzhou Daily is not the only media outlet dubbing those who managed to stay negative “final round players” (决赛圈选手). In early January, Beijing Daily (北京日报​​​​) and People’s Daily (人民日报) also published a short article using the same phrase. In the article, the Beijing expert physician Dr. Li Dong (李侗) answered some questions about the so-called ‘finalists.’

According to Dr. Li Dong, some of the people who claim to have managed to stay ‘Covid free’ were never infected due to protective measures. But there are also those who may have actually had Covid-19 without realizing it, as they barely had any symptoms or were completely asymptomatic.

“Final round players, protect yourself!” one Weibo commenter writes: “Who else has managed to reach these finals?”

“As a ‘final player,’ I finally went out to eat and visit the shopping mall today. I’ll have to wait and see if I reach the championship level. If I haven’t caught [Covid], I can go on and lead a normal life; if I did catch it, I’ll need to wait a while, and will also be able to lead a normal life.”

Other persons who did not have Covid yet also share on social media that they went out for the first time during this Spring Festival period: “I cautiously went out and saw my first movie in 2023, Wandering Earth II, I picked a morning screening so that the cinema is not so crowded yet.”

Now that the Covid infections in China have peaked and the number of infected critically ill patients is quickly dropping, the fears over catching Covid are also seemingly fading among those who were not yet infected.

But some people who have not had Covid yet are still being careful, especially if it concerns elderly family members. It’s not always easy to stay positive about still testing negative – also for loved ones who did previously have Covid and want to protect their family.

One Fujian-based social media user writes: “I recovered from Covid and I’m spending the Spring Festival with three ‘final round players.’ We’ve been stuck inside the house for days. I’ve been looking at the lanterns and the lights in the neighborhood, watching them from the balcony, and I really wanted to go down and see.”

“Looking at WeChat Moments, all my friends are out traveling, but my family still hasn’t had Covid and we’re afraid to go out,” another netizen writes: “It’s sad to celebrate the New Year without going out. Guess we’re final-round players now, let’s hope it brings good things.”

Meanwhile, the group of ‘finalists’ is still shrinking. One Weibo user from Guangxi wrote: “I’ve left the finalist circle. It’s only been two days since I returned to my hometown and I’m already infected.”

By Manya Koetse 

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Continue Reading

China and Covid19

Video Shows Real-Time “Departure” Information Board at Chinese Crematorium

From “cremation in process” to “cooling down,” the digital display shows the progress of the cremation to provide information to those waiting in the lobby. The crematorium ‘departure’ board strikes a chord with many.

Manya Koetse

Published

on

A video showing a live display screen announcing the names and status of the deceased at a Yunnan crematorium has been making its rounds on Chinese social media, from WeChat to Weibo, where one version of the video received over 1,7 million views.

Somewhat similar to a real-time platform departure display on train stations, the screen shows the waiting number of the deceased person, their name, gender, the name of the lounge/room (if any) for families, the name of the crematorium chamber, and the status of the cremation process. Below in the screen, it says “the final journey of a warm life” (温暖人生的最后旅程).

For example, the screen displays the names of a Mr. Chen and a Mr. Li; their bodies were in the process of being cremated (火化中), while other cremations were marked as “completed” (完成) or “cooling down” (降温中).

Through such a screen, located in the crematorium lobby, family members and loved ones can learn about the progress of the cremation of the deceased.

The video, recorded by a local on Jan. 7, received many comments. Among them, some people commented on the information board itself, while others simply expressed grief over those who died and the fragility of life. Many felt the display was confronting and it made them emotional.

“It makes me really sad that this how people’s lives end,” one commenter said, with another person replying that the display also shows you still need to wait in line even when you’re dead.

“I didn’t expect the screens [in the crematorium] to be like those in hospitals, where patients are waiting for their turn,” another Weibo user wrote. “It would be better if the names were hidden, like in the hospitals, to protect the privacy of the deceased,” another person replied.

Others shared their own experiences at funeral parlors also using such information screens.

Another ‘departure display’ at a Chinese crematorium, image shared by Weibo user.

“My grandfather passed away last September, and when we were at the undertaker’s, the display was also jumping from one name to the other and we could only comfort ourselves knowing that he was among those who lived a relatively long life.”

“Such a screen, it really makes me sad,” another commenter from Guangxi wrote, with others writing: “It’s distressing technology.”

Although the information screen at the crematorium is a novelty for many commenters, the phenomenon itself is not necessarily related to the Covid outbreak and the number of Covid-related deaths; some people share how they have seen them in crematoriums before, and funeral parlor businesses have used them to provide information to families since at least 2018.

According to an article published by Sohu News, more people – especially younger ones – have visited a funeral home for the first time in their lives recently due to the current Covid wave, also making it the first time for them to come across such a digital display.

The online video of such an information board has made an impact at a time when crematoriums are crowded and families report waiting for days to bury or cremate their loved ones, with especially a large number of elderly people dying due to Covid.

On Jan. 4, one social media user from Liaoning wrote:

I really suggest that the experts go to the crematoriums to take a look. There is no place to put the deceased, they’re parked outside in temporary containers, there’s no time left to hold a farewell ceremony and you can only directly cremate, and for those who were able to have a ceremony, they need to finish within ten minutes (..) At the funeral parlor’s big screen, there were eight names on every page, and there were ten pages for all the people in line that day, I stood there for half an hour and didn’t see the name of the person I was waiting for pop up anymore.”

As the video of the display in the crematorium travels around the internet, many commenters suggest that it is not necessarily the real-time ‘departure’ board itself that bothers them, but how it shows the harsh reality of death by listing the names of the deceased and their cremation status behind it. Perhaps it is the contrast between the technology of the digital display boards and the reality of the human vulnerability that it represents that strikes a chord with people.

One blogger who reposted the video on Jan. 13 wrote: “Life is short, cherish the present, let’s cherish what we have and love yourself, love your family, and love this world.” Among dozens of replies, some indicate that the video makes them feel uncomfortable.

Another commenter also wrote:

I just saw a video that showed an electronic display at a crematorium, rolling out the names of the deceased and the stage of the cremation. One name represents the ending of a life. And it just hit me, and my tears started flowing. I’m afraid of parting, I’m afraid of loss, I just want the people I love and who love me to stay by my side forever. I don’t want to leave. I’m afraid I’ll be alone one day, and that nobody will ever make me feel warm again.”

One person captured why the information board perhaps causes such unease: “The final moments that people still spent on this earth take place on the electronic screen in the memorial hall of the funeral home. Then, they are gone without a sound.”

 

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our newsletter and get unlimited access to all of our articles:


 

By Manya Koetse 
with contributions by Zilan Qian

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Continue Reading

Popular Reads