As the Coronavirus pandemic continues around the globe, we have decided to use our unique position of having staff and working partners from all over the world to provide short interviews and updates from their local perspectives.
James Finnerty from Lupine spoke with Brooklyn, who runs Lupine’s China office in Dandong, on the border with North Korea. If you’ve been on a tour to North Korea with us, there’s a fair chance Brooklyn was your tour leader.
James: Firstly, I hope everything has been okay with you and your family in this difficult time. I’m sure many of our customers who know you are sending you their best wishes.
With the problems with tourism, how have things been affected for you personally? What stores were closed, what restrictions are you all facing?
Brooklyn: The virus has affected the tourism business very seriously, all the tour companies have been closed with no income for the past two months and this might last for another few months. The government have decided to return 80% of the registration bond that all the tour companies have to pay to help us to go through this difficult period. These bonds are £25,000 so you can see how helpful this would be, but this money has to be returned before 2023.
Besides the tour companies, the department stores, hotels, restaurants, bars, karaoke places etc. are all closed. Some of them will begin to reopen soon as the situation is improving here.
James: How are things in China in general? It seems to be getting better, but many schools are still closed?
Brooklyn: The infection rate domestically in China has maintained at 0 for a few days, the new problem is that lots of overseas Chinese are coming back to China, some of them are infected, so the imported cases are getting more and more serious. The government has started to pay more attention to dealing with these cases.
As the virus hasn’t been completely removed, and a vaccine hasn’t been developed, the schools are still closed here right now.
James: How are spirits in China? Are people hopeful? In Europe and the USA, the language being used is to describe this as a war against the virus.
Brooklyn: At the beginning, we were really scared, as we didn’t know what was going to happen as the virus spread so quickly. But now it is fine for Chinese people, the news about the Coronavirus are being broadcast all day, introducing the knowledge of how to prevent this virus spreading.
People followed the suggestion of the government, we all stayed at home. Now, there are almost no new cases in China, some of the businesses are recovering, and the hotels and restaurants are starting to reopen in Dandong. I think we can return to regular life soon.
Actually, it is a war without smoke or gunpowder. Besides the local medical staff, the ones from the military were also involved in the fight. We could see lots of military transport planes flying to Wuhan and carrying lots of military medical staff there. The military took over the hospital with mainly critically ill patients. I think this is why we call it war.
James: If you could advise people about going into lockdown about how to prepare for this, what would you suggest they do? Are there things you wish you had done or purchased while you still could?
Brooklyn: I suggested it’s better to stay at home and to self-isolate. It’s a really helpful way to cut down on the spreading of the virus. As the supermarkets and local markets were still open during lockdown, even sometimes for half a day, we could always buy the daily necessities at any time.
If the situation is the same as here, people don’t need to stockpile food. Just buy some instant noodles, some drinks, just in case. Get some masks. Please wear masks when you have to go outside. Maybe the culture is different in the UK compared to China. People used to only wear masks when they were really sick, but right now, wearing masks could prevent yourself from being infected, and on the other hand, in case you have been infected and you don’t know it, wearing masks could protect the people who are around you. It’s really important!
I don’t need to buy anything currently, even the face masks, which were really in short supply at the start. Today I can buy them in the pharmacy at any time. The daily necessities could always be bought at any time from the supermarkets or local markets.
James: Many people in North America and Europe don’t seem worried about the outbreak. Young people in particular are still visiting pubs, bars and the famous videos of spring breakers still partying. Was there a similar reaction in China from young people?
Brooklyn: I think people have to change their mind and treat this virus very seriously. The situation in Europe right now is getting worse, more and more people have been infected. Staying at home and not joining parties and not going to pub, it might feel boring, but protecting our lives is the most important thing right now.
If the virus outbreak causes a widespread infection, it will be too late to do the remedial measures. Please, follow the suggestions of the government and medical experts, stay at home right now!
James: You have a unique perspective living so close to North Korea, when there is very little information in the media about this. Apart from North Korea closing its border, have you heard anything? There has been self-isolation for North Koreans working in tourism, is there wider self-isolation?
Brooklyn: North Korea closed their border before the virus outbreak was large in China. There’s not too much information about them so far, but all the official media states there are no cases in North Korea so far.
I contacted our partners in North Korea a few days ago, they’ve been requested to self-isolate for 30 days. The policy is stricter in China and other countries than it seems to be in Pyongyang. I’ve heard the North Korean government say that the border will not be opened until a vaccine is developed.
James: Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions for us!