fredag 1. mai 2020

Ms Du, door sensors and me: life with a Beijing Covid-19 quarantine handler

Every day for the last two weeks I have spoken with Ms Du, a mild-mannered, middle-aged woman who is my quarantine handler. She calls me in the morning to remind me to send her my temperature. She calls again if I forget to send the afternoon reading. She texts rose emojis, asking me to “please cooperate” with the rules. If I open my door, equipped with a sensor, to put the rubbish in the hall or pick up a delivery, she immediately calls and tells me to let her know beforehand.

After returning from a reporting trip to Wuhan, I have been in strict self-isolation in my apartment in Beijing. Most days I get calls not just from Du but the local police station, perhaps checking the spelling of my name, someone from the health department asking about my travel history, or other representatives from the neighbourhood committee.

They send messages reminding me to cover my mouth when coughing and not to “spit wherever you please”. The calls and questions, politely made, are constant and after a few days I already feel harried. A pink slip of paper with hearts taped to my door alerts my neighbours how long my quarantine should last.