South Africans in that country cite decent healthcare and strict enforcement as reasons to stay
South Africans working in China have told City Press that they trust the stringent measures that have been implemented there in dealing with the virus, whereas the laissez-faire approach here in South Africa makes them reluctant to return home.
Boipelo Makhwiting teaches English in Inner Mongolia, situated in northern China, and says her decision not to come back is the “patriotic thing to do”.
She is full of praise for the Chinese government, which she believes has made the right moves to protect citizens.
While the province where she resides “has not been badly affected”, she says, the government made it easy to track those who were infected via an app, set up to help detect the number of cases in an area.
“The nice thing about China is that they have an app on WeChat, where it pings your location and notifies you about people who are infected around your area within a 2km distance. At one point, there were five people who were affected around me,” she says.
When the total shutdown was implemented by the government, it included a curfew between 6pm and 9pm, and only one member per family could leave the household at a time. Only supermarkets were legally allowed to operate.
The province had a total count of 75 cases of the virus, of which 74 were cured and one death was recorded.
Chinese media reported that the province was cleared of the Covid-19 coronavirus on Thursday.
There have been no new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Inner Mongolia for 29 consecutive days, although 41 people are still under medical observation in the region for having had close contact with people from other provinces and regions who were infected, or people who had arrived from other countries.
Makhwiting says malls have now reopened, but that measures to monitor people’s whereabouts are still in place.
“They take your personal information down, from your temperature to your cellphone number and everything else, so they can regulate and know who is going where and at what time.”
Her main concern about South Africa is the poor healthcare system, which she feels would be unable to handle the crisis.
“No offence to the South African government, but I do not think they will be able to assist. We have to always look at a country’s public hospitals. If I am infected and have to go to a public hospital, would I be able to get the help I need? I do not think so,” she said.
Katlego Manyaka, who lives in Changsha, the capital city of Hunan province, agrees.
He says he has little hope in the South African government and that “government’s strictness in China is way more assertive than our government’s implementation at home”.
And, he says, he believes it would be unwise for him to leave China when the number of cases in South Africa is increasing.
“Personally, my thought is that China is slowly recovering, while South Africa is at a breakout point – meaning, there is more of a chance of my becoming infected with the virus in my home country than here. Also, the convenience of online shopping is not a privilege we enjoy in South Africa,” he said.
Manyaka (26), who works as a teacher in Changsha, says daily checks are carried out on staff members at his workplace to ensure that they are assisted if any symptoms are detected.
“My employer started taking precautions [when the virus broke out], as expected. A daily health notice was required from each employee. To this day we still have to say how we are feeling or if we are experiencing any difficulties,” he says.
After two months of its residents being in quarantine, Changsha is slowly recovering, However, Manyaka is worried about this. “I am concerned about getting infected, especially since the environment outside now seems to be getting back to normal and we might return to work soon.”
A South African going by the alias of Shaun Collins is currently in quarantine in Beijing, where more than 400 confirmed cases have been reported.
He has been in quarantine for 11 days since heading back to the country to continue teaching. His daily routine comprises checking his temperature twice a day, and receiving two calls from officials to find out if he is feeling well.
“The hotel provides you with whatever you need; for example, soap, water, coffee and other amenities,” says Collins. “We get three full meals a day with fruit, and if you do not like the food here, you can order from outside and they will bring it to your room.
“People dressed in hazmat suits are all downstairs. They deal with picking you up and the people who leave the grub are also suited up as a precaution.”
Although Collins has not seen any people since being in isolation, he calls it a “free indoor holiday”.
He will be allowed to leave if he is not displaying any symptoms after 14 days.
“They test you two days before your sentence is finished.”
Jessica (33), who works at a school and has been living in Wuhan for six years, says: “The really great news was when we heard that Wuhan had no new infections reported this week. So, it gives us hope that by the end of the month we may be able to go out of lockdown.”
Jessica, who has been alone in her apartment since lockdown was instituted on January 23, says life has taken on a “new rhythm” as she continues with her workdays – albeit online.
She is also closely following Covid-19 developments in South Africa.
“I think I definitely made the right decision to stay in Wuhan rather than come home. Still, I think the government in South Africa is taking the outbreak seriously, which is good. I have heard of some of the restrictions it has put in place, and hopefully those measures will contain the spread of the disease.”
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