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What’s It Like To Live In China In The Time Of COVID-19?

Two women show us a glimpse of their lives in Shanghai and Beijing, China.

In case you haven’t heard, Wuhan, the city in China where the novel coronavirus was first reported at the end of 2019, recently lifted its lockdown—allowing people to travel to other parts of the country. Cities like Guangzhou and Shenzhen have made it clear that its returning residents will have to undergo self-quarantine and regular checkups. China has been cautiously opening its borders; still, people can’t help but feel worried about the possibility of another wave of infections—especially without a vaccine. For months, the country was on high alert, but what exactly does that mean?

Cosmopolitan Philippines asked two women who currently live in China—Angela Sy is in Shanghai and Theresa Chen resides in Beijing—to give us a glimpse of how the country is dealing with COVID-19.

Shanghai (from Angela Sy’s perspective)

Dance Dance Revolution

Exercising indoors was advised. Luckily, I still had my Butterfly moves from high school. Courtesy of Angela Sy
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No masks

Back in early February 2020, Shanghai had a shortage of masks. Pharmacies had signs saying they were sold out so people would stop demanding for stock. Courtesy of Angela Sy


Touching stuff with your bare hands is a no-no. Elevators had tissue paper that you used to press buttons with. Courtesy of Angela Sy
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Compound gate

My compound blocked off all outsiders for about two months. All deliveries were organized here, sorted according to building number. Every day there would be several delivery guys outside screaming into their mobile phones telling people to come out and get their stuff. Courtesy of Angela Sy

Shoe dresser

Right next to my door, my shoe cabinet used to just be where I put my keys. Now, it’s become a full arsenal of disinfectants and protective wear. Courtesy of Angela Sy
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The one day in early March I decided to go out to meet a friend for brunch. It wasn’t worth it. I worried for exactly 14 days after. Courtesy of Angela Sy

Breakfast bruschetta

I didn’t realize how domesticated I was until this lockdown. There’s something about avocados that bring out the Stepford wife in me. Courtesy of Angela Sy
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Popo and Tofu

They had no idea what was happening, only mildly annoyed that the big cat that walked on two feet had started to hang around way more now. Courtesy of Angela Sy


Where I hang out to get sun, go on client calls, and read. Courtesy of Angela Sy
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Work desk

My old dining table is now my work desk. Grateful for an office that allowed us to work from home the entire time. It is now April, and Shanghai has gone back to almost normal; my office is still mandating we work from home. Safety first. Courtesy of Angela Sy
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Empty street            

No cars, no worries. My friends Pieter and Danielle hanging out. Danielle Huang

Beijing (from Theresa Chen’s perspective)

Outside the office

We still go to the office for work, but the employees go to work every other day (so we’re not all there at the same time). It’s been four months since I’ve seen my manager and other colleagues. We mostly communicate via email and WeChat. Employees are required to have their temperatures taken before entering the building, and then again in the afternoon around 2:00 p.m. You’re allowed into the building as long as your temperature doesn’t go above 37.5. We also have to wear a mask the entire time we’re in the office. Courtesy of Theresa Chen
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Company cafeteria

During lunch, we are no longer allowed to sit together. Every employee gets his or her own table. The couches in the back are “divided” by cardboard boxes. Courtesy of Theresa Chen

Metro station

There are guards at every metro station. They take every person’s temperature. Courtesy of Theresa Chen
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The mall, another public space, also requires temperature checking. Courtesy of Theresa Chen

In front of my apartment

A pass is required to enter and leave the building. Courtesy of Theresa Chen
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Delivery boxes

China is big on having things delivered. I buy everything online, including my groceries. Before the pandemic, everything can be brought to your door. Now, packages are left outside for residents to retrieve. Courtesy of Theresa Chen


All photos were submitted on April 6, 2020. Visit for more COVID-19 stories.

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