Developing Countries Don’t Have the Luxury of Staying Home, But We Do

by Sherry Q

“How many days are left in your quarantine?” my friend Lucy texted me on Wechat.

“8 days to go.” I texted her back, sitting on the edge of the hotel bed in a quarantine facility in Dalian. It was the fourteenth day of my quarantine in transit to Beijing, and I would still have to do a week of self-isolation at home. I was one of the international students lucky enough to get a flight back home. But my journey was far from over. The room was tiny, old, with a poor internet connection, and I could only count cars passing the block from above.

When I finally got out of the isolation, Beijing, the city where I grew up, stunned me by its quietness: at 6 pm when I walked downstairs to buy ice-cream there was no line of cars on the  street. Regular rush hour, starting from 4 pm to 9 pm, seemed like it never existed. The dead silence and emptiness surrounding me made this city seem hostile. Parks, museums, restaurants, malls,  amusement parks, subways, buses, are at 30% of their normal capacity. Everything has changed. Everyone is making an effort and sacrificing to end the crisis. 

Marc Santora’s “The World Reopens, Despite Skyrocketing Coronavirus Cases,” describes the crisis as “far from over.” In developing countries around the world, governments have faced a decision between staying shut to end an epidemiological crisis and opening to ease an economic calamity. But as soaring cases and deaths from New Delhi to Johannesburg and Rio de Janeiro demonstrate beyond a doubt, it is way too early to reopen the world.

As one of those who was quarantined, I understand the preciousness of fresh air and the privilege of walking down a street. However, sacrificing now might make a giant leap forward to lower the cases and reduce the infection rate.

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