Unfortunately this also meant all masks in stores were sold out, too and I headed home empty-handed. Thankfully, my friend Mao had a box to share and so I no longer need to fear the plague-ridden masses hunting me down on sight in an attempt to grab any last remaining fresh meat in the city.
I gotta admit, the pollution sickness made me a little paranoid as I struggled to take in a full deep breath without my lungs hurting, my allergy making me sneeze and leak from the nose, and a headache that forced me into darkness under covers of warmth creating fever-like temperature as I was in too much discomfort to get out of bed to turn the heating off.
Well, I've bought disinfectants, I have masks, and I'm shooting anyone I see within 3 yards of me. So don't worry I should be pretty safe.
My one concern is the cats. They go outside and hang with other cats, and this virus can spread among them, too. Hmm...
Come here, Smashy-pie...
But in reality I know there is not much cause for concern at this point. In Shanghai yes, there are a few confirmed cases - last I saw it was up to 9 but it's probably higher this point (more on that later) - but in a city of as many as 32 million people including outer areas, the chances of acquiring the virus for any given individual, without other factors taken in, is considerably less than winning any lottery. Add that I'm barely leaving my home and for me that number decreases even more so (still not zero since there is some brief contact with delivery men and the like).
However, I put myself in a pretty awkward position.
Going to an airport in the busiest human movement the world has ever seen kind of evolves the feeling of 'y'all just overreacting' to 'actually you should probably take this seriously'.
And so I am. I have my masks and wipes, and I've looked up the efficacy of particular mask types and hand washing. Some masks are mostly psychologically comforting for those trying to protect themselves from Pollution, as the air just seeps through the unsealed sides of your face. Others do a proper job but you look like either a Plague Doctor or Bane. This could be a boon to some, I guess, but even so, breathing becomes a resisting chore at some point.
N99 masks are probably best if you have strong lungs, but for the most part, N95 is your best compromise. For the virus? Well, most masks may do, but I went with N95 to be safe. As long as you have a barrier preventing somebody from coughing directly into your mouth, and in turn preventing you from doing the same should you already happen to be infected, it's probably doing its job.
However, according to research on the spread of influenza, the mask alone is not enough, and actually made negligible improvements of spread in families compared to 'doing nothing'. Instead, when combined with frequent hand washing, viral contamination dropped a whopping 80%. That's more like it.
(Look it up yourself, I'm lazy today)
Both practices are necessary. This made me think back to the airport and I suddenly realised with dread...
In China, you are required to scan at least 4 fingers for a good 10 seconds or so on a pad in which a million unwashed, feral lepers also previously wiped their dead skin on. What better ways for a virus to spread? But fear not, I am going to do a classic Mr. Bean routine with my disinfectant wipes, wave the towelette around with pride to the queue behind me and the impatient service person before wiping the scanner down, and then repeating with a fresh one on my own hands for good measure immediately after.
This is the exact machine used. The green light comes from the haunting bio-luminescence of your typical coronavirus as it becomes energized in the process of eating through your flesh.
Then it's just a case of sitting in an isolated metal tube for 17 hours, holding my breath for the majority of the journey.
Am I going to infect England? Gee... I can't say with confidence. You see, the Chinese government has a habit of lying about these thin... everything, and were largely blamed for the mass spreading of SARS back in 2003 for covering up numbers and details.
Why do this? What could they possibly benefit from hiding vital information?
Well, we need to understand how things work in this dictatorship.
Without going into too much detail, control of information is absolutely paramount for most officials' ability to stay in power and position. Fudging numbers of their economic growth, employment rate, housing markets, GDP on the whole and so forth is the best way to get a pat on the back by their own higher-ups and in turn, keep your position as a bribe-absorbing atheist.
This means that any given individual will even hide information as banal as their own schedule from their supposed 'partners'. This is all exacerbated massively by the timing of the Spring Festival, a hugely important time for economic bragging. If your numbers go down during this period, you can expect those hungry wolves after your position to gain the confidence to pounce from behind, even working together to accomplish this.
We know this is not just speculation. In the early days of the virus, the numbers infected was around 44, confined only to the City of Wuhan. But already, somehow the virus had managed to spread to 2 or 3 different countries! What a miracle that nowhere else in China was affected.
However, when Xi JinPing made a speech and announcements were made that those who withhold official numbers will be severely punished, suddenly within a weekend, those numbers tripled and the map of infected areas has now spread to the entire Eastern half of China:
One of those numbers in Shanghai could be me... argh!
It seems for the most part, the government has not learnt from their mistakes during the SARS outbreak. Even now, people are being censored and prohibited from talking about it on social media because, as we know, Chinese people are desperately fearful and will immediately break out into riots and looting should they learn there is anything to worry about.
No, it's best to keep things under wraps, prevent the fake news and only report 'official' figures from these totally trustworthy politicians.
This mentality, unfortunately, only makes things worse.
The public know, and are indeed used to their government withholding information. There is no media or news source in the country that can post information not readily approved by censors, and so the alien concept of press freedom is powerless to report their own findings of, say, hospitals completely full to the brim of victims, unable to take on more patients as some disgraceful rumours and lies have informed us.
The picture on the right below is 'allegedly' the result of an escaped patient.
Screenshots of chat histories before they get quickly deleted by censors are spreading like wildfire and rumours are taking control - because nobody can trust what they are hearing from the media mouthpieces. People have to take the 'truth' into their own hands, and that truth can get alarmingly wild, from doctors cremating nCoV victims quickly so they don't have to 'count' them in the official numbers, to using salt to protect you from Fukushima's radiation.
Any of these things can be true, who can know in a country where there is only one, privately curated truth?
Statistical models on similar historical outbreaks show the numbers must be much higher than they are to have spread so rapidly, with Wuhan-only infections reaching about 1,700 last week, compared to the official... ahem... uh... 600 or so I guess today.
So will Xi JinPing's demand that his little minions NOT hide information cause a far better outcome than 2003 SARS? I'd say it's unlikely.
The deaths were 800 or so back then (though probably more, let's face it), and only 17 as of writing this (though...) This Virus is apparently less deadly, with 90% of patients so far surviving and many even being discharged already, but it is also more prone to mutation and spread.
Anyone who has played Plague inc. should know, the most effective pandemic is one that is not immediately globally threatening to the existence of mankind, but one that can brood and adapt right under our fingertips. Xi insists he will 'resolutely curb' the crisis, but how can he when the virus has already reached up to half a dozen other countries?
And the government's threat of being 'nailed to the pillars of shame for eternity' (actual quote) to those officials who do not properly report the outbreak is probably going to make matters worse, as those who fudged the numbers will now have to work even harder fudging numbers in order to hide the fact that they were fudging numbers in the first place.
I feel comforted at the level of Shanghai peoples' responsibility in light of this news to completely sell-out masks and take the matter absolutely seriously, at least for the most part. But I worry about the select few irresponsibles, those who, like in the case below, were genuinely sick and took drugs to lower their temperature so they could sneak through the airport into France.
I worry about the countless thousands of trash collection service people who, from what I've seen, are consistently mask-less and glove-less, sifting through meats and other biological waste left behind by the uprising zombie apocalypse.
I worry that this is only the beginning, but I hope this exposes the CCP for who they are, because every time we do that, be it Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong, Swine Flu Criminals, Ivory trade, Market manipulation, intellectual property theft, illegitimate Island militarization/expansionism, or nCoV contamination, their reputation on the global stage breaks down and they are forced into incrementally tighter corners until, eventually, they might actually consider doing something about their behaviour.
Or maybe that's a pipe dream.
Thanks for this account of the situation - rather more fulsome than the version coming from mainstream media.
Are you planning to go back to China in the future, or have you left for good now?
i read the mortality rate is 3 to 4% so that's hardly a 12monkey extinction level event ... otherwise i would laud your attempts to save the planet by travelling across the globe but im not sure if the statistic takes into count the locales where it was measured as im sure some places would be 'quicker on the draw' than others and in some places information travels more freely and un-altered
than it would in others ... (im not a big fan of humanity but thats never been a secret) .. (... i was just passing by on my weekly roll, never mind move along nothing to see here ...