Far from home, Nini Davlianidze was among the first people on the planet to experience firsthand what life is like under the threat of COVID-19. The 30-year-old Georgian found herself in Wuhan, China, at the start of the coronavirus outbreak that has infected tens of thousands of people around the world and killed thousands.
Quarantined in her apartment beginning on January 23, Davlianidze, a consultant for a Chinese firm, shared her thoughts, feelings, and observations about living in Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first identified in December 2019, with RFE/RL’s Georgian Service. Over the course of more than 40 days and nights, her remarks in videos and text attracted the attention of Georgians at home and abroad.
Georgia itself reported 40 confirmed cases of the coronavirus as of March 19, with no deaths. Three days earlier, the South Caucasus country imposed a two-week ban on foreigners entering the country in a bid to stymie the spread of the virus.
Davlianidze’s first entry came on January 28, days after Wuhan went into lockdown. Below are excerpts from her accounts.
January 28, 2020
The quarantine was announced on January 24, so I am not leaving the house. I went out on just one occasion, which coincided with the [Chinese] New Year (January 25) and I was shocked to see that everything was closed. However, whether this was due to the quarantine or not, I don’t know. As far as my friends tell me, there are no shortages in the stores. They are going out and buying stuff.
The city is in high spirits, people try not to leave their homes. Yesterday, there was another video of people shouting out encouraging messages out of their windows. No panic is palpable, everyone is just trying to be cautious.
February 3, 2020
Today is a very quiet and sunny day. From my window I can only see a small part of the street, but it seems like people have started to go out and today there were more of them on the streets than yesterday.
They wash the streets every day here, but either so early or so late at night that I am usually asleep when it is being done, and so I only hear the sound of the street-cleaner truck in my sleep.
Today, for some reason, the streets were being washed in the afternoon. You know those feel-good videos that circulate on Internet, the ones that mesmerize us and we don’t understand what makes us watch them till the end? This street-cleaning was exactly the same sight. Sadly, I did not have enough memory on my phone to record it on video.
Sometime in the afternoon they messaged us in our working chat group that, starting from tomorrow, we would be working online. This gave me a happy feeling, as I thought I would have something to do. However, in two minutes they followed it up with a “this does not apply to foreigners” message. This world does not allow happiness to last, as we all know.
For supper, as usual, I had tea and a bun.
February 17, 2020
I am so tired today -- emotionally and physically. For the first time since February 2, I left home. I went shopping with a suitcase that can hold about 20 kilograms and a backpack. I filled them both [with goods bought at stores] and was barely able to bring them up back home.
There are certainly no big crowds outside, but the streets are not completely empty, there are places where you can see people on the move. A friend of mine lives on the outskirts of Wuhan, and that part is completely locked down. They are only allowed to go out of the building for three hours. There are no such strict measures where I reside.
Earlier, my girlfriends messaged me a map, in which infected areas and buildings were marked in red. My neighborhood was not marked at all on that map. Only several neighboring blocks were marked in red.
They say there are policemen in the city, however no one has checked on me. Don’t know, maybe they are not even aware that someone lives here. The company is renting this building. There are 22 floors; I live on the 20th.
February 24, 2020
I've been in quarantine for exactly one month.
At first, this quarantine was like a well-deserved vacation we’ve all dreamed about at least once in our lives -- zero commitments, having enough food and drink, books that we’ve been planning to read for years, and now finally we can do so, with a cup of hot coffee or tea in our hands. Only a dog or cat is missing to make this fantasy truly idyllic. You can sleep and wake up whenever you want. The only thing you have to worry about is choosing a movie: What to watch today?
But soon you realize that you are headed towards depression and all this gives you somewhat of a masochistic feeling of pleasure. You used to think you were an extremely extroverted person, but now you start to realize that you’ve become the biggest introvert ever.
March 12, 2020
I went out for the first time in 25 days today. It felt so good to communicate with people, even to just say hello, that it became very clear once again -- I would never, ever want to end up on a desert island :D
In Wuhan, the situation has improved dramatically, with only eight new cases reported today, and hospitals opened specifically for the coronavirus have been closed, giving us hope that we will be able to return to normal life within a month.
Unfortunately…the situation in the rest of the world is deteriorating.
I feel very bad for people who are worried about their bank debts because they had to stay home for two weeks. And so, in order not to turn these two weeks into two months, like what happened to me, I urge you to heed the recommendations.
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I apologize if I sound too preachy.
This is my final letter; I won’t be boring you anymore.
Thank you to everyone who expressed their love and support to me and apologies to those whom I seem to have irritated. Now I await your diaries; I hope you won’t have to write them for too long and they will turn out way more cheerful and interesting than mine was.
I love you <3
Note: Restrictions have begun easing in Hubei Province and the mass quarantine centers that had been set up in Wuhan, its capital, to hold infected patients with mild symptoms have closed, according to The New York Times. Chinese authorities said on March 19 that there were no new cases to report in Wuhan or the province.