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Solis Marine Master Mariner Captain Roland Orange on living and working in China during the CoronaVirus outbreak

Firstly, I haven’t contracted the virus, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome CoronaVirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), nor the disease caused by the virus, CoronaVirus Disease (COVID-19).

My son and myself have remained in Shanghai throughout this period from the first notifications in January 2020. It is particularly fortuitous for my son, who has his Chinese relations in Hubei province, and this is the first year he never travelled to Hubei province for the Chinese New Year celebrations. I previously lived for five years in Yichang, Hubei province (whilst still in the latter part of my seagoing career) where my son was born.

So, what has it been like? Have we suffered; have we been house bound; how have we been treated?

Surprisingly, it has been nothing like what I have seen reported on BBC, CNN and other news channels. Sure, it has been difficult and the economy has suffered. Travel has been restricted, but not as draconian as reported.

I haven’t been confined to my apartment or complex, I’ve been able to travel freely throughout Shanghai and I’ve seen no shortages of food and toiletries. The only item I had difficulty in getting was masks, but through contacts I have managed to get sufficient surgical masks delivered. The value of wearing a mask is often debated, but everyone is wearing them here, so to avoid irking the locals and causing a scene, it is just easier to comply and wear a mask when out of your apartment.

Officially there were no travel restrictions, except to Hubei province and road tolls have been suspended, internal flights and trains have been running. Each province however has been implementing their own procedures which has somewhat restricted actual travel and having a school aged child in the house, has further stifled my own travel options.


Shanghai World Financial Centre Tower, Jin Mao Tower and the Shanghai Tower

Self-isolation in Shanghai is working

The Chinese authorities requested that all people stay in as much as possible and not gather in groups, commencement of work after the Chinese New Year was delayed for a further 14 days and workers were asked to further self-isolate for 14 more days on returning back to Shanghai and before entering the workplace.

Whatever your particular political allegiance might be and your thoughts on the Chinese political system, the Chinese tend to follow the advice given by the authorities and Shanghai remained as quiet as it is normally, during the Chinese New Year period, for a further 28 days, as people stayed in and only went out for shopping requirements. Which seems to have worked well in the Shanghai municipality. For the size of the area, there has been relatively few cases reported.

If you have ever visited Shanghai you will know how busy the roads are, especially during the morning and evening commutes. To be able to freely drive from one side of Shanghai to the other with only a few other cars on the roads is one of life’s little pleasures, well it is for me!

Shops and shopping malls have remained open, most restaurants have also remained open, there is an established food delivery system already in place here in Shanghai and this has been utilised even more for cooked food delivery and online shopping has increased as people stayed in as much as possible. I have seen people eating in restaurants but not many. Shopping malls and the restaurants within have been quiet, eerily quiet, but still open.


Lujiazui financial district

Open for Business

So, how about work for the foreign marine consultant out here? We have still been receiving enquiries and instructions which we are trying to meet. However, most of our surveyors have children of school age and all provinces seem to have the additional 14 days quarantine before returning home if school children are in the house. This has really restricted our attendances to the provinces where we are located, Shanghai, Shandong and Fujian, we do have contacts with other surveyors in other provinces and can utilise these during the short term if required.

And what now? China and Shanghai are getting back to normal; people are returning to work but then seem to be going straight home at the end of the day. Delivery companies are doing good business with shopping and food deliveries. I was out this past Saturday and more and more people are going out and taking advantage of the peace and quiet and walking in the sunshine as families. The Pearl Tower has now reopened for sightseeing, albeit with reduced numbers being allowed in at any one time. Perhaps the best time to see the sights and skyline of this massively impressive city.


The Pearl Tower from the rooftop garden of the IFC shopping mall at Lujiazui

Cleanliness and Common Sense

So now we watch with sadness as the rest of the world struggles with the same problems we have recently experienced here, and China starts to restrict returnees to avoid spreading the virus again. We hope the virus can soon be restricted and brought under control and panic buying, not seen here, is brought under control.

A little common sense and following simple guidelines on cleanliness, coughing or sneezing into tissues or the inside of your arm, self-isolation if unwell and staying a suitable distance from others in public places, will help stop the spreading of this disease.

You can contact Captain Roland Orange here.


Ole` supermarket checkout at Kerry Parkside shopping mall

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