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.