Our quarantine begins

Today is the lantern festival, but like New Year public gathering is forbidden, we are told to stay indoors and not meet in big numbers. Still, people release lanterns from their windows and balconies. Why would people risk so much to break this rule? There is a lot to wish for. The socnets are on fire with virtual lanterns – so many people, all wishing for the same thing. For us, in the campus, we wish for the next 28 days to pass quickly.

Our last meeting decided we cannot wait until more Beijing people begin to fall ill. A medical advice team, mostly postgraduate students but also Li and even some lecturers, produce a leaflet about precautions. The face masks we all wear have little use, both the cheap and expensive ones – it is like holding out water with a sieve. They say we must quarantine the whole campus, and today we agree this and we close our gate. We have enough food. If we allow nobody into the campus for 28 days, this will prove that nobody here is infected, and then we will ask to be allowed to leave Beijing and go to our families. We plan this for a long time, but I could not say on even a private post to my friends. We know that there must be crisis outside before we can safely do this and be left alone for long enough to set up what we need.

If this will work, we must keep the campus secure. Others may try to join us, or police may try to remove us since we do not have the authority to take over the campus: this is not only a quarantine, but occupation. We hope the authorities will see that it is a good plan, and leave us alone, but we are prepared for them to try to take control.

Nobody is to come in the walls for 28 days. People can leave, but then they cannot come back inside. This morning, we close the gates and post signs saying not to come in, notices explaining what we do. We try to avoid any political words, as this will bring attention we do not want, but we know it is impossible to do this without opposing the authorities.

We did not tell the press before as we do not want the news to spread very fast – this will only bring people wanting to join us or stop us. But we know the news will spread, and we prepare to make statements when they come to us. I am a part of the press team – we will answer questions to the university socnet pages and we have a loud speaker ready to speak to journalists from behind the gates.

Inside the quarantine, we have agreed our rules, and these are put on leaflets all over the campus. Everybody now has a private room. This is a great luxury, when in normal term-time we are four people in every room – but also lonely, since we must all live very separately now, with no close contact. We have
a rota for distributing food to the rooms, and a timetable for using washing rooms. When we leave the room we wear gloves and a mask – not to stop us catching the virus but to stop us spreading it by a door handle or light switch. We have a strict procedure for washing – use hand gel and spray the sink before turning the tap, then wash, then disinfect the sink, then disinfect hands before turning the tap again.

We communicate through a private forum on a secure Socnet – all the homesets in the rooms are now secure, and we all make sure our handsets are secure, too, and keep these charged up in case of a power cut. We have a medical team running the advice forum, also forums for sharing recipes and practical advice, a forum for every kind of studies where people can share notes and arrange lectures on SkIMp, forums for social chatting and for playing games. This will keep us from feeling too isolated.

A new meme for the month: It is maybe a little depressing for you, but important to me now to know that my friends are prepared. When we first hear of the Blood Flu, we say that this is just Vietnam, and I never think of it coming to China. Then it came to Guanxi, and I did not think it would come to anybody I know. Then there was Anhui, and everybody I know was cut off from me, and still I think Beijing will be safe. Only now is this real for me, and I know that many of you think, like I did, that this is a long way away, this is a China thing, you are safe. I hope you are right, but I want you to believe, for this meme, that you are wrong. I ask you all to say what you will do now so you will be safe when the Blood Flu reaches your country, and to do these things even if you think this is silly. This is the one thing you can do at this time to help me. I feel safer to know others will be safe.


16 thoughts on “Our quarantine begins

  1. I knew you were planning something – but this is pretty epic! Perhaps being in all day will give you the time for more chatting on SkIMp…

      • Some things, we accept we can do nothing, but we can start an idea and hope for it to spread. Other universities do the same already, and some communities, too. But maybe we surprise you – we are not completely helpless.

  2. Just checking in to make sure your medical team’s read the latest WHO report on Reliflu. I believe they’ve stopped sending health workers through the blockades now, which means I’m not going to reach you – sorry about that, but I’m soon to be quarantined myself, in more comfort than most by the looks of it, and when I’m cleared I’ll be sent straight home.
    If I’m not cleared, if it turns out I’m infected, I’ll have to stay on the anti-virals until a cure can be developed – that’ll be a disaster, there’s so many of us and nowhere to send us. I try not to think about what happens to the infected ones when we run out of Reliflu. I’m sure Red Meds will keep us stocked as long as it’s possible, but – yeah, like I say, trying not to think about it.
    But I wanted to make sure the student quarantines heard it from someone who knows. I know it’s only supposed to be health workers and security forces who got Reliflu, but this stuff always gets around and you need to be aware of it. If anybody has taken Reliflu since the start of the quarantine, 28 days won’t be enough. Even WHO don’t know yet how long someone can remain infectious without symptoms on this stuff. Thing is, if they do stop taking it, and they’re infected, they could die, so an outright ban will be difficult. Anybody who’s taken it needs to either leave the quarantine or stop taking it and re-start the clock on their isolation.

    • Thanks Ben – we have the report and already have banned anti-virals from the quarantine. Anybody who wants to keep taking them must leave. There is no way to enforce this – they are easy to hide. But we have to trust one another, or what hope is there for any of us?

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