Chinese trapped in India: the virus that can’t be escaped, the country that can’t be returned

On Shake, someone said, “Please, don’t come back, I still want to spend May Day.

–The caption

At the end of April, in the northwestern Indian state of Gujarat, Zhou Shunbao, a 32-year-old technician at a silicone oil production plant, posted a message on ShakeYin and in his circle of friends: “India under the epidemic is not as panic and chaos as the outside world imagines, the country is not collapsing and the people are not panicking. The people of the country who stayed behind are very self-disciplined and self-loving.”

He also set the background music, “Who cares about the tears I shed”.

He tried to reassure his friends and family with this passage, but even in the remote industrial area, he could still feel the severity of the epidemic. These days, whenever the wind blew from the direction of the city, the smell of burning corpses drifted vaguely over, and some bits of gray and black flotsam followed in the sky and fell on the factory floor. Zhou Shunbao could not sleep, and had to resort to local Indian sedative drugs to aid sleep.

Since May, attention to India has declined – the Baidu index for the word “India” has dropped from 70,000 to less than 30,000; but at the same time, the epidemic continues to worsen: on May 11, the total number of confirmed cases in India was 22.99 million, with 32.9 million new cases in a single day. The total number of confirmed cases in India was 22.99 million on May 11, with 329,000 new cases in a single day. According to the World Health Organization, the mutant virus in India already poses a global health threat, being more easily transmitted than the original virus and potentially able to evade vaccine protection. Still, the WHO recognizes the effectiveness of the vaccine.

On the very same day, May 11, a sudden drop in oxygen supply in an Indian ICU killed 11 people and left five in critical condition; Foxconn’s Indian factory had a massive infection and production of cell phones processed at the plant had been cut by more than 50%; and in Gujarat, people coated themselves in cow dung to prevent the new coronavirus.

Chinese people in India, like Zhou Shunbao, are witnessing and experiencing the gradual loss of control of the epidemic. In Rajasthan, a girl has seen crematoriums where cries are heard, where injectable drugs needed by critically ill patients are first speculated at more than $3,000 a shot and then immediately become priceless, and where oxygen machines are speculated at new prices with every pouring hand.

The country that can’t be returned

Anxiety exists at every moment, and one of the biggest problems is the long delay in returning to China.

In February 2021, the Chinese Embassy in India issued an announcement stipulating the health code requirements for Chinese in India to return home: applicants who are not infected are required to provide a double negative certificate; those with a history of infection are required to provide diagnostic proof of lung CT or X-ray results, two negative nucleic acid tests, 14 days of quarantine and the results of a recheck of nucleic acid and IgM antibody tests within 48 hours before boarding.

A large number of people bathe in the Ganges River to celebrate the Great Pot Festival in Haridwar, India, April 12, 2021, local time.

However, several interviewees told All Now that despite completing the testing and isolation process exactly as required, they still did not receive a green code.

Zhou Hui, who lives in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, has been asking around since April, and since there are no direct flights, she had to choose a transit route, with three routes to Germany, Nepal and Oman. She chose Nepal, the closest, and quickly booked her ticket.

When she was close to departure, she suddenly received a notice from the embassy staff telling her not to go.

“Is the green code not issued anymore?” Zhou Hui asked. “It might be.” The other side replied. Zhou Hui did the nucleic acid test anyway and submitted her application for a health code. The next day, the results came back with a red code.

On the evening of April 23, the embassy staff who had been in contact with her before sent her a message, “I have a fever. Rest first. You can call the number on the nickname if you have urgent matters.” According to the official website of the Nepalese Embassy in China, if you do not have a green code issued by the embassy or consulate in the country of origin, you cannot return to your country via Nepal in transit. A week later, the green codes for transit to Germany and Oman were stopped. The only way to go home was to evacuate by chartered plane.

Engineer Zhang Haoqing, who is in Gurgaon, 44 kilometers from Delhi, told All Now that no one around him had gotten a green code in the past half month. He had rushed to a nearby hospital for a lung X-ray and a nucleic acid test – his visa had expired and the hospital had rejected him on that ground, and he had to forge one to get tested. But those results didn’t translate into a code green or a ticket home either. “Quarantine well at home, protect yourself, and wait for follow-up notices,” was the only response he and his colleagues received.


Lin Lan lives in Delhi. Before the second outbreak in India, her life was not affected at all – gyms, restaurants, cinemas and shopping malls were all open. Talking about the epidemic, her Indian colleague had a calm attitude, “It’s okay, if you get it, you get it, just lie down for two or three days and you’ll be fine.”

In such an atmosphere, Lin Lan also relaxed, and in February this year, she went to the west coast state of Goa for a month to play. It was only in April, when the curfew and blockade policy was suddenly announced, that she realized something was wrong. Delhi became cold overnight, and the streets were sparsely populated with pedestrians.

Chennai street scene

Within a few days, she and her boyfriend began to have fever and cough. Instead of going to a public hospital, the two went to a private hospital that treats infertility to get a nucleic acid test and both became infected. Linlan had no way of knowing exactly where she was infected – according to the BBC, in mid-April, when nearly 100,000 tests were being performed daily in Delhi, the number of daily cases recorded was about 16,000.

Life after the diagnosis became monotonous. Linlan spent most of her time in home isolation with her boyfriend, and as her illness progressed, she began to find it somewhat difficult to breathe, taking nothing but medication and lying down to rest each day. Fortunately most living services did not come to a halt and they were able to order takeout online without being cut off from water and food.

Lin Lan belongs to the mild patients, after receiving treatment for two weeks, her condition improved dramatically, only some side effects of the drugs, “a while ago was particularly low, feeling that life has no meaning, the whole world is paralyzed. In the last two days, she has become particularly exuberant again.”

But Lin Lan’s luck cannot be replicated. Shenny (Weibo @搞也搞不懂), who lives in Rajasthan, said an Indian friend of hers in the jewelry business spent nearly 30,000 rupees (the equivalent of 2,600 yuan) to get into the hospital, but only got a floor bunk in return – after turning critically ill and entering the ICU, he too sadly died. In Gurgaon, one of Zhang Haoqing’s Taiwanese colleagues suddenly started vomiting one day, “the boss initially said to carry it, carry it and it would pass”, but the colleague, who was nearly 50 years old, was taken to the hospital and died two days later.

Later, when Zhang Haoqing’s other five Taiwanese colleagues left India, they took the ashes of the deceased back with them.

The situation would have been more complicated if hospitalization was required. According to a May 8 report by Punch News, a Chinese man who had contracted the new crown in New Delhi with a fever of 39 degrees Celsius called the hospital, but was told that it was overcrowded. “Whether you have money or no money right now, you can’t get into the hospital. India advised me not to go in, the hospital was in such bad shape that even the main doctor who was saving the patient was infected.”

Outside the hospital, drugs and equipment are also being speculated at high prices. Zhang Haoqing revealed to All Now that an oxygen machine that costs just over $1,000 on Taobao is being speculated at $7,000 to $8,000 in the market. Shen Ni said that she bought five oxygen machines from the Indian landlord in two batches, the original price of the first was RMB 1,250 yuan, the landlord asked for 2,300 yuan; and the second, 600 yuan oxygen machine became more than 3,000 yuan.

Oxygen machines shipped from China to India

Even so, Shinny felt lucky. One of her friends’ online purchase of an oxygen machine was stopped halfway, “The other side said they wanted money, but not the machine.”

Getting the oxygen machine, Shinny kept receiving help from people around her. They calculate the time, each almost only borrow a day, and so the blood oxygen index back, to immediately return the machine. Shen Ni used alcohol and hot water to disinfect the machine, and then lend it to the next person.

Zhou Hui is a former journalist and currently works as a freelance writer in India. In general, the epidemic is more severe in northern India, especially in the two major cities of Delhi and Mumbai, and in the Ganges Valley, while it is more moderate in the south where she works.

In terms of the health care system, the city of Chennai, where Zhou Hui lives, did not experience the same run-ins or collapse as Delhi and Mumbai during the outbreak. She said that Indian health care is better in the hierarchy of subspecialties, such as the existence of specialized scanning and testing agencies and medical bioassays, so that patients do not need to go to general hospitals for screening tests for new crown symptoms. The southern Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu have better medical conditions than the northern region. Zhou Hui revealed that asymptomatic and mildly ill patients who are close contacts of the new crown pneumonia cases in Chennai will be isolated at home or in government-arranged buildings after being tested by specialized agencies.

Viral siege

Whether in central Delhi and Gurgaon or northwestern Gujarat, almost every Chinese person is worried about the locals around them. Many locals wear only scarves and face scarves, and even if they have masks, they always pull them up under their noses and wait for the police to arrive before they temporarily cover their mouths and noses.

Zhang Haoqing found it strange that “the virus is sucked in from inside the nostrils,” he explained to the locals in as simple language as possible, hoping that they would cover their mouths and noses with masks, but they did not understand or accept it.

“You don’t know how Indians think,” Shenny said. Last week, she and her boyfriend, Ma Nu, were riding in a car past the city’s crematorium, where people gathered near the crematorium, cries coming from inside the walls, when the driver suddenly said, “So it’s true that there’s a [Chinese Communist] virus.”

The cries could be heard outside the crematorium walls

Only at this moment did Shinny understand the reason for the Indians’ laxity. Over the past year, she had occasionally heard drivers and cooks talk about what they thought of the news – and while they would never say that New Crown was a hoax, when it came to specific news, they would say “fake” and “it’s the government messing up “.

Because of its hot and humid climate and sanitary conditions, India has historically been baptized by epidemics, including cholera and dengue fever. The book “Plague and Man” by American historian William McNeill mentions that India’s most prominent caste system and Buddhist culture are both related to plague: Aryans came to the Indian subcontinent and had to adopt social segregation in order to protect themselves from infection, so caste hierarchies were divided; ancient Indians looked for an exit in the disaster before practicing and preaching Buddhism and Hinduism, which preached reincarnation in the afterlife and seclusion This has also shaped the Indian philosophy of life and death.

“They wear masks, not because they are afraid of the virus, but because they are afraid of fines, so they put them on when the police come and take them off when they leave,” says Shinni. Her driver and cook are Muslims, and because Prime Minister Modi is of the Hindu faith, there is always a strong sense of caution about official information.

Hindus don’t believe in science any more, either. After dealing with the locals for a long time, Shinni came to understand that the other side had been brought up differently than she had. During the first wave of the epidemic last year, a local friend who was close to Shenny opened a bottle of river water from the Ganges that had been sitting for more than a year in her presence, poured a little into her hand, and drank it in front of her in a very reverent manner.

“It’s not clean, is it? It’s raw water from the wild, and it’s been sitting for a long time,” asked Shenny. But the other replied, “Ganges water is just clean, that’s what we taught in our textbooks, that Ganges water purifies the dirty things.”

“And what if I wash my hands in this bottle of water?” “Then you can’t drink it, but if it’s in the Ganges, washing my hands I can drink it.”

“And what if I rub my feet next to you in the Ganges?” “Then you can’t drink that either, but you can drink it even if you are far away.”

The locals’ common sense is always mixed with religious ideas, and they often find ways to justify contradictions, Shinny says.

After finding out that the driver didn’t believe in the new crown virus, Shinny kept showing him and the family chef videos of hospitals, crematoriums and cemeteries – scenes of crowds and cries that the other could not refute. “If you catch the new crown, you have to stand in line at the hospital if you live, you have to stand in line at the crematorium if you die,” she says, “and even if you die, you die in an undignified way.”

She sometimes takes religion into account, “Your religion, your God let me come across you because I don’t want you to meet him yet. It is also God’s will that I speak to you so clearly.”

After several cycles, the family’s driver and cook at least changed. They began to wear masks with discipline, and they carefully disinfected door handles and things brought in before entering, as Shenny had requested. “It’s all about defeating magic with magic,” Shinny says.

One joke about the Indian epidemic is that “the whole world is worried about India, and the Indian people are worried about whether their nannies will be here tomorrow.” Hui Zhou mentioned that she has learned of several Indian families where the infection was caused by transmission from the maids. “It’s infuriating and hateful, but you feel there’s nothing you can do about it.” She believes that China and India are so different in social culture and individual behavioral logic that it is difficult to truly understand each other, and there is no need to stand on one’s own ego to despise and belittle the other.

For more Chinese people, the only way to protect themselves is to “shut themselves off”. When the factory shut down, Zhang Haoqing tried to go out as little as possible, even finding the outdoor air as suspicious as the people, and would not even hang his washed clothes outside to dry – but with the 30-degree Celsius breeze blowing into the house, sunbathing was not a big problem. When he occasionally goes downstairs to buy vegetables, he puts on disposable gloves, a two-layer mask and goggles, and when he sees a vegetable vendor pulling his mask up to his chin, he is so tight that he has to go back and rinse the vegetables a few more times.

Local time May 10, 2021, New Delhi, India, May 10, India’s capital New Delhi announced the extension of the blockade until May 17, the street pedestrians are sparse.

“In the factory, I go around a long way when I see local workers,” said Duan Chenggang, a mechanic near Gurgaon, adding that even with the severity of the epidemic, his boss has not declared a work stoppage and he has to work with two local workers in the factory every day. If the other worker wanted to talk, he would pretend he didn’t understand and then shout back.

Infection in the factory

At the factory where Zhang Haoqing works, two more mainlanders and five or six Taiwanese have recently been infected with the virus.

The factory’s managers cautiously escaped the first wave of the outbreak. Since last year, the factory has been closed to management after confirming that all employees are negative, eating and living in the factory, away from residential areas. But since the epidemic eased in India in late 2020, the owner lifted the lockdown to save money, and employees sometimes shop and eat out, and local workers go home to eat and live. But for two or three months, some workers had coughs and fevers, and one by one, people were diagnosed with the new crown.

The clustering of infections in the factory was not an exception. Zhang Haoqing said another factory that produces electronic products had 17 or 18 infections among more than 20 Chinese employees who went to work in India.

“Indian employees are not well paid, only the equivalent of more than 1,000 yuan a month, they are afraid that after the infection can not work, there is no money to earn, and sometimes conceal the report,” said Zhang Haoqing, later, the factory made it clear that you can take sick leave and not deduct wages, but it was too late, the boss had to announce a temporary halt in production after the current raw materials to do .

However, not all companies can afford the cost of shutting down production and paying sick pay for their employees. Also in Gurgaon, Duan Chenggang, a mechanic in a small factory, had to work with sickness.

In his factory, there are only six people, including the boss from China, and three of them are Indian employees. Some time ago, an Indian worker was diagnosed with a new crown and his boss told him not to come back to work. Other than that, it was business as usual – no one was doing sterilization at the factory, no one had to be passively or actively quarantined, and the four remaining employees still lived together in that room of a hundred or so bungalows, and Duan Chenggang often felt isolated.

A patient with New Crown pneumonia receives treatment in New Delhi, India, May 10, 2021, local time.

He arrived in India at the end of 2019, and his boss took him directly from New Delhi airport to the factory – Duan Chenggang only knew he was near Gurgaon, and couldn’t even describe the exact location.

In recent months, Duan Chenggang felt his health deteriorating. His head was always foggy, he fainted several times while working, ate mostly rice, onions, peppers and potatoes, and could barely buy meat. He became thinner and thinner, and his weight dropped straight to below 90 pounds.

He didn’t know much English, much less the local language, and had to ask his boss for an interpreter to go for medical checkups and new crown tests – he asked his boss for one, but the other party delayed and delayed, and eventually it didn’t work out. Until now, he still has to work every day.

In the factory, although the money earned is not much, but food and housing are borne by the boss, and out of a word can not read, this factory is the only place to live Duan Chenggang.

In the past year and a half, he has only left the factory once. At the end of last year, he filled out an application to return to China with another colleague and his boss, then hired an interpreter and went to the hospital to get a nucleic acid test. He got a double negative certificate and a promise that he could board the plane – he could return home as long as he paid for the ticket on the day of takeoff.

On the day of takeoff, the boss received notice that the three of them were not on the boarding list.

Now, in order to fight for the return, Zhou Shunbao, Zhang Haoqing and Duan Chenggang more than a hundred compatriots joined a WeChat group, joint letter to the Chinese ambassador in India, to apply for chartered flights to evacuate the overseas Chinese, the number of joint has nearly 400. May 10, some group members said they received a reply: “about the evacuation of overseas Chinese matters, please report the case to the company unit will be reported to the relevant situation and suggestions and opinions Domestic company headquarters to report at each level, while copying our museum, in order to cooperate with the relevant domestic departments to study countermeasures to solve the problem.”

“In fact, the domestic people’s wind comment is the biggest damage to us”, Zhou Shunbao said, in that report of peace under the shake, he received a comment: “so that you stay there quite good, do not go around saying shivering, looking forward to the country to pick you back, stay there quite good “On April 27, a user named “military sister record India life” in ShakeYin released a video titled “India epidemic completely out of control,” with the following comment: ” Please, don’t come back, I still want to have a good May Day”. The “military sister” back: “Okay, happy May Day”.