Hui Zhu was not expecting to be stuck in China for the spring semester.
Zhu, a Chinese instructor at the University of Mississippi, went to China with her son to see her family in the seaside city of Qingdao during the winter break. Then, on Dec. 31, the coronavirus emerged, changing the rest of her vacation.
Zhu said that because of the coronavirus outbreak, many people are staying indoors. She has not left her family’s apartment complex since Jan. 25.
The new coronavirus originated in the city of Wuhan and has since spread to 26 countries. It has already infected over 28,000 people in mainland China, according to the Washington Post. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the coronavirus is a global health emergency, just hours after the Center for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed the first human-to-human transmission in the United States in Chicago.
Because of the coronavirus outbreak, Zhu said she cannot return for the rest of the remaining school year. However, she plans to be back next semester.
“My visa has been checked (through administrative processing) by the American Embassy due to the Chinese New Year and the coronavirus. (The embassy) closed,” Zhu said. “I haven’t received my visa, so I had to cancel my flight (back to the United States), and (I’ll) come back when I have the visa.”
Jan. 25 was Chinese New Year. Zhu said that family and friends usually gather together during the holiday, but this year was different.
“The second day of the new year holiday, things became worse. Many people began to stay at home and cancelled visiting relatives and friends,” Zhu said. “We stayed at home. We used WeChat to say ‘Happy New Year’ to our friends and relatives.”
While Qingdao is roughly a 10-hour drive from Wuhan, people in Qingdao, including Zhu, are experiencing the effects that the coronavirus has had on China.
“My brother went outside yesterday,” Zhu said. “(There are) few people and few cars outside. People are all wearing masks, and all the (housing) complexes keep strangers out.”
Despite not leaving her apartment complex for almost two weeks, Zhu said she has found ways to entertain herself.
“I play with my son (during) the day time; we have a play yard at home. At night, I watch movies or TV with my family,” Zhu said. “Movie theaters were closed, but some new movies were released free online, so everybody could watch at home.”
Zhu said that she and her family are being extremely careful whenever they go outside.
“We prepared a lot of masks and disinfectant fluid. Whenever (my family) goes outside, they will wear the masks,” Zhu said. “We use disinfectant fluid everyday to clean the floor.”
She also added that when people in Qingdao go outside, conversation is sparse.
“People wear masks. They don’t talk a lot; they’ll nod their head to say ‘hello.’ If you don’t have a mask, you are not allowed to enter the supermarkets or other public places,” Zhu said.
Zhu said that even though the coronavirus has the entire world on high alert, people outside of Wuhan are being very positive in this situation.
“My life hasn’t changed a lot. I enjoy the time to stay with my family. I think many people have the same idea,” Zhu said. “(Whereas) people in Wuhan, their lives have been influenced a lot, as their city was closed.”
According to Zhu, the Chinese government has said that the coronavirus situation will likely be better around Feb. 9, because three cities — including Wuhan — are restricting travel. She also said that the government is encouraging people to stay at home. There have been over 3,000 new cases in China in the last 24 hours.