In Wangfujing, Beijing’s answer to Henry Street, a guard stood on a low steel pedestal. His long red winter coat was too big. I watched him do it up close. Her arms were wrapped around him, her coat closed against the wind on the wide, empty street.
Many of Beijing’s shopping malls have closed as the number of new coronavirus cases began to accelerate in recent days, and these restaurants are still open, offering takeout from tables tucked away at the front door. However, many shops along Wangfujing were open on Thursday afternoons. That included his big five-story old-fashioned department store, which was my target.
Since the school and business closures that began in Beijing’s most populous Chaoyang district on Monday began spreading across the city, I’ve been begging my Chinese friends to tell me where to buy pillows. They told me I should stay home and wait until everything opens again, but the lady at the mall told me I should try this department store with bedding on the 5th floor.
I walked past the perfume and makeup counter on the ground floor, glanced at the clerks bent over their phones, and realized I was the only customer. When you get off the escalator on the fifth floor, three women wearing blue masks are standing in front of your bed.
I told one of them that I was looking for two pillows: a duvet, a pillowcase, a duvet cover, and a sheet. Within minutes, my bed was piled high with pillows and I took a picture and sent it to one of my friends who invited me to stay at home.
I replied with a friendly ‘well done’ but after a while he sent another message saying ‘that’s a lot of money’. I wasn’t talking about the price, but told him that by then the sales assistant had tallied it up on a piece of paper.
She seemed a little disappointed when I said it was more than I had thought of spending, but she went off to find some cheaper alternatives.
“I usually ask the price before I buy anything,” a friend messaged me, as if revealing a deep cultural difference.
The clerk came back with an alternative option, but it was still too expensive, too shiny and luxurious for my liking, like Doris Day and Rock Hudson enjoying a virtuous night’s sleep. I left without buying anything, embarrassed and a little guilty to learn that the three bedding-clad ladies had probably not opened the cash register all week.
Outside, I realized that my obsession with pillows was, more than anything else, an attempt to resist the closure of the city around me. I took a picture of an empty street and sent it to my friend.
“If this continues, the economy will collapse,” he said.
It was a familiar lament, but like most Chinese people I know, my friend has been staying home this past week and is determined to avoid Covid. They gave me an N95 mask.
“Walk as much as you can, don’t take a taxi, just stay home,” she said.
Officials this month hinted at changes to China’s zero-coronavirus policy, urging officials to keep quarantines shorter and for fewer people while maintaining as targeted and limited lockdowns as possible. I told you. 90% of the population is fully vaccinated, but the most hesitant group is the most vulnerable over-80s, of whom only 66% have received her two doses of vaccines and only 40% I am receiving additional vaccinations.
By stepping up immunization for those over 80, increasing the number of beds in intensive care units, increasing temporary hospitals for people with mild COVID symptoms, and increasing access to drug treatment for those infected. , has plans to make the health system more resilient. This could take months, during which time China maintains a revised version of its Covid-zero policy, which has seen only 5,232 deaths since the start of the pandemic, rather than immediately adopting a “live with Covid” strategy. There is likely to be. Hundreds of thousands of people are dying from the virus.
A friend of mine who is worried about the economy collapsing is self-employed and unable to work under Covid restrictions in Beijing this week. I am also concerned about the current risk of infection for both the people I live with.
“I prefer to stay at home these days. There are so many diseases around us. It’s better to stay safe,” he said.