SmartShanghai's Big Coronavirus Outbreak FAQ has gotten even bigger in the month since we published it. More questions, more uncertainties, more rumors, more developments—more answers!
1. Are rents going down? Can I move now?
We've spoken to housing agents and it seems like the answer is rents are not going down. Or at least, it's on a case by case basis and not common at all. Some agents mentioned a slight dip in monthly rents and others mentioned waiving two weeks of rent for new signees, but we don't recommend trying to renegotiate with your landlord based on that.
There's nothing saying you can't move these days (we've got plenty of apartments for rent), but to facilitate the actual physical moving of your stuff (especially if you have friends or a moving company helping you), you'll need the approval of at least six people: the building management, the neighborhood committee and the bao'an of your old place, then the same three people at your new place. Without everyone's approval, a moving van might show up and not be allowed in. It's a lot of moving parts.
2. What's with the QR codes?
Your suishen ma (随申码), as the code is now called, is currently meant to show if you're a contagion risk. Here's how to get it.
As far as we can tell, it hasn't been made mandatory, but there are more and more places that are checking for it, including some restaurants in Jing'an, housing complexes and certain retail stores. However, we've read that this is just phase one: the plan is to have the suishen ma become a new kind of personal ID.
3. How will we know we don't need masks anymore?
When the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission tells us it's safe to go about without them. Until then, better safe than sorry.
4. I see many shops are open, are things back to normal?
Nope! A lot of small businesses, restaurants and bars are open. Our list of what's open has over 300 venues and chains, but only a third of the city has reopened for business. Many have altered opening hours, most have limits on how many customers, and many just... don't have customers. Things are open again but we're not back to normal yet.
5. My abs are merging into one single ab. My pecs are sagging. I need a gym! Where can I go?
F45, Tera Wellness, Spinback Fitness are open, Pure is opening the gym section of its Xintiandi location to members on March 13, as is Z&B Fitness, Will's is opening 11 locations including King 88 from March 16, , Ringside Boxing has opened two of three locations... there are even more that are open on the downlow either for people in the know or for private lessons. Few are doing classes, and the gyms we've spoken to say you have to book a time slot in advance even for individual workouts. Operating hours are adjusted and there are limitations on how many people can be in the gym at the same time.
6. I heard movies theaters are open but you have to sit in alternating rows.
We called ten and either they didn't pick up or the automated reply directed us nowhere. WeChat's Maoyan movie ticket app doesn't show any tickets available either. It's fair to say they're still closed.
7. Is it too early for nightlife to come back? I need bottle service and tech-house like a begonia needs damp soil.
Some clubs are open, but most are closed. ALL is open but the backroom is closed. TAXX is closed. Bar Rouge is open but limiting guest numbers. Space Plus is closed. Celia is open. Arkham and 44kw have just reopened, bringing some life back to the pit. Along with schools, these will probably be the last things to re-open.
8. Are there special considerations for visa renewal? What's the automatic two-month extension?
The Entry-Exit Bureau is open for business as usual and they've made some concessions for the special circumstances. There is a two-month grace period for most processes, including the renewal of residence permits, business visas, tourist visas and student visas. If you need to apply for a new work permit, you'll still have to go to the bureau physically. If you're just renewing, it can be done online. Both applying and renewing a residence permit require a physical visit. You can find our longer article about visas here.
9. There's a lot of speculation about the effect of the closure on small businesses, and restaurants and bars in particular. What's happening?
We've seen a number of closures already, including Morton's, CE LA VI, Stone, Va Bene, Little Creatures, El Luchador, Da Camilla, add to that Salute, Azul is moving...
Are they all victims of the one-month shutdown? No, not really. Most of them had, as they say in the medical world, underlying conditions, and the virus shutdown was a convenient time to close and just be done with it once and for all, while saving a little face. Restaurant co-morbidity. Others, like Va Bene, came to the end of their lease in early March, and for reasons that are probably bigger than a short shutdown, decided not to renew. Stone was apparently a decision from the U.S. headquarters based on trade tariffs between the U.S. and China, as well as wanting to "focus on their U.S. operations", which is kind of like when politicians resign to "spend more time with the family."
No doubt there will be a second wave of closures in the April and May as cash flow issues grind businesses into powder. Consumer confidence is definitely not back. It's a difficult time to be a small business owner.
10. I've seen QR codes on the Metro and people scanning them. Do I have to do that?
The QR code tracking system is meant to help determine if you've traveled or been in contact with someone who might be a contagion risk. However, it doesn't seem to be compulsory.
11. What's the deal with the quarantines for people returning to China?
Mandatory quarantines (not the self-imposed or "suggested" neighborhood quarantines) are being imposed on travelers coming from designated hot-spot countries. These quarantines appear to either be carried out at home or in certain hotels. It's not clear what factors determine whether it's home or hotel quarantine, it's not clear what countries are even on that list and it seems that different districts have different rules and criteria. Suffice it to say, coming back from Italy, South Korea, Iran or Japan is going to be an issue. As of March 13, it's also an issue from travelers from France, Germany, Spain and the United States.
SHINE released this step-by-step guide of what happens at the airport on arrival. Reports from our readers and people in the community suggest that travelers should prepare for hour-long waits and processing times.
12. Is re-infection a thing? Is China going to get another round of coronavirus from Iran or Italy or South Korea?
Yes, it's a thing, and boy, we hope not! With confirmed cases in China dropping, the big worry from the official mouthpieces is turning to contagion risks coming from overseas. Country-wide, most infections are still linked to Hubei, but it's a very real concern: the majority of Shanghai's most recent cases are linked to travelers. The expansive quarantine measures are meant to stop another round of infections. At least we don't have it as bad as Beijing (yet): they're quarantining all travelers, not just ones coming from hotspots.
13. Are people who get infected and recover immune to the virus?
We asked Dr. Frank Morris-Davies of SinoUnited Health. He says: It’s still too early to know for sure as this is a new virus. I suspect after recovery from COVID-19, there should be some immunity, at least in the short term, but unsure if there will be immunity in the long term.
14. What tests are there currently for the coronavirus?
Back to Dr. Frank who says: The definitive test for the SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, is the RT-PCR test. Here in China, they get the results back in seven hours. This test is highly specific, but has a low sensitivity of 60-70%. Thus "false negatives" are a real issue with this test and a few negative tests might be ordered to be sure the patient doesn't have COVID-19. Another surrogate test can also be used, a "chest CT", which can show characteristic pneumonia (lung infection) caused by the virus. At present there is no serologic (blood) testing available to diagnose this virus.
15. How will we know that things are back to normal?
Normal isn't real! There is no normal! But if there were, there are a couple of indicators that might be worth keeping an eye out for. One would be the schools opening. Another is Disneyland opening. A third is the big meetings up north getting rescheduled. A fourth and very big one would be Xi Jinping visiting Wuhan and, whoaw, would you look at that! One down, three to go.