Featuring robots, hazmat suits, ghostly figures, and front-door cameras: Chinese methods for enforcing coronavirus quarantines look like a sci-fi dystopia for the human army. Authorities opposed the protest with all available police forces, special services and the army. “
With lawsuits imported from abroad threatening to expose China’s progress, travelers from abroad must stay at home or at a designated hotel for 14 days.
Beijing relaxed the rule in the capital this week – excluding people from abroad and Hubei, the province where the coronavirus first appeared late last year.
At a quarantine hotel in central Beijing, a guard is sitting at a desk on each floor to monitor all movements.
The loneliness is shattered by one of the few spectators allowed near the room: a three-foot-tall tubular robot that delivers water bottles, food, and packages to hotel guests.
The robot climbs into the elevator and navigates the hallway by itself to reduce communication between guests and human workers.
When the robot arrives at its destination, it dials the room’s landline phone and tells the resident in a bizarre, childish voice: “Hello, this is your service robot. Your order has arrived outside your room.”
Its stomach opens and the robot turns around before the guest takes the delivery items.
Doctors in hazmat suits go from house to house every day, reminding residents, including an AFP reporter who was in Hubei, to take their temperature with a mercury thermometer given during check-in and to ask if anyone was experiencing symptoms.
Elsewhere in the city, people under Home Quarantine have installed silent electronic alarms on their doors.
Authorities placed a notice on the door of each quarantined house asking neighbors to keep an eye on the detainees.
At a residential compound in Beijing, officials told AFP that people under Home Quarantine must notify community volunteers whenever they open their doors.
Frederick Boyes, a German journalist, began his second quarantine in Beijing this year on Sunday after returning from Wuhan, the capital of Hubei.
The management of his building has placed a camera in front of his door to monitor his movements.
“It’s pretty scary how you got used to this kind of thing,” he told AFP.
“Apart from the camera, I believe the compound’s guards and cleaners will scold me if I go out,” Boyez said.
During his previous quarantine experience in March after returning from a trip to Thailand, he was reported to building management by a cleaner for going downstairs to dump dirt.
There is no human communication
Complete isolation has become a temporary rule for those who are under strict quarantine, even without a single trip to the grocery store or walking to break the monotony.
Joy Zhang, a 25-year-old media professional who returned to Beijing from a work trip to the center of Wuhan’s virus, spent three weeks in a hotel in the Chinese capital without leaving a cramped room.
There, guests were not allowed to order their own meals and were offered quality meals instead.
Friends were allowed to bring packages to the front desk, which was then left outside the hotel room by staff who avoided direct contact with guests.
“After 21 consecutive days without seeing a man, time seemed to pass very slowly,” Zhong told AFP.
Not all people under quarantine are monitored as closely as in Beijing.
Charlotte Pirot, a French teacher who arrived in China in late March – just before the ban on foreigners entering the country – was imposed – spent two weeks under segregation in a hostel in the southeastern city of Guangzhou.
He was confined to a 10-bunk room, food was served at his door, and medical staff came to check his temperature more than once a day.
“They never locked the door and (the whole) process was based on reliance,” Pirot told AFP. “We all played the game without competition.”
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