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It was shocking to see the speed COVID was spreading, American expat in China says


All right. So how are people living in China under the new COVID policies? Rebecca Kanthor is an American expatriate living with her family in Shanghai.

REBECCA KANTHOR: My children have dressed up for their radio interview, OK?

LEO: I got glasses.


LEONA: And I got a bow.

KANTHOR: OK. Got it. OK.

MARTÍNEZ: Her kids, 7-year-old Leo Kanthor-Liu (ph) and 10-year-old Leona Kanthor-Liu (ph), are attending class remotely from home.

LEONA: The government said we have to, like - going to let go, no COVID testing anything. So a lot of people are getting COVID. And that would affect the schools because a lot of the kids would get COVID, because then they'll miss school. So they closed school for the rest of the, like, semester.

MARTÍNEZ: My colleague, Steve Inskeep, asked the kids' mom how their world suddenly changed.

KANTHOR: Almost immediately, friends around me, people in my social media started reporting that they were getting COVID. It wasn't just a few people. It was just everybody. And bear in mind, you know, for three years, I haven't really known anyone in China - you know, just a few people who have gotten COVID. So it was really shocking to see the speed at which so many people around me were getting COVID.


We had learned that when restrictions were lifted, many people were taking extra precautions and even not going outside if they could possibly avoid it because they were afraid of getting COVID.

KANTHOR: Yeah, I knew that it was going to be really fast because there's delivery people going from door to door. You're going out. You're taking your kids to school. It was too fast. It was overwhelming.

INSKEEP: Has this dragged you back to an experience that many of us will recall from the early phase of the pandemic, when it was hard to think or talk about anything else?

KANTHOR: Well, actually, to be honest, I feel like we've been talking about it nonstop. It's really - it's dominated our thoughts. It's scary because a lot of people were not prepared and did not have medication at home. And so that's what a lot of people are posting on social media right now is, how do I get medication? How do I get fever medication? It's not available in the pharmacies. That makes it much more scary for them.

INSKEEP: How has your daily routine changed for your family, if at all?

KANTHOR: Well, I got COVID, so it changed drastically.

INSKEEP: Oh, I'm sorry.

KANTHOR: So - well, first, before I got it, the schools - my daughter's class closed down because - gosh, it seems so strange to say this. But there was a close contact among a parent of a child. And because her class went online, my son, who goes to the same school, was told he couldn't go to school anymore. So after about a week of that, the school decided all of our teachers are getting sick, so they just closed down the whole school. And in the middle of that, I got COVID. Then my kids got it. So it's been an interesting past week.

INSKEEP: How's everybody doing right now?

KANTHOR: I'm mostly getting better. My kids are, I think, probably have a couple more days before they're finally better. But I feel like we're seeing improvement. So there were a couple of days where everyone had a fever. And it wasn't very pleasant at all. But we're past that.

INSKEEP: We had an expert on the air the other day talking about the possibility, not the certainty - we don't know - but the possibility of hundreds of millions of people infected in China, scenarios that could be even worse than what's happening now. How are people viewing the immediate future?

KANTHOR: I think there is a lot of different feelings happening right now because it's such a moment of flux right now. So people are experiencing life without all the controls that had been put in place over the past couple of years, where you couldn't really travel between provinces. You couldn't go without a few days of getting tested. So there's some, I guess, excitement about not having to be restricted in these ways, but then also fear of getting the virus. And so, you know, the streets right now in Shanghai are pretty much empty because a lot of people are staying home. They don't want to get sick - and then also, you know, fear for people's loved ones. And Chinese New Year's coming up. And I know a lot of people, you know, were planning on visiting family. And now people are wondering, OK, is that smart to do? What's the next couple of months going to be like?

INSKEEP: Well, Rebecca Kanthor, thanks for sharing a few details of your life. And I hope everybody in your family is well soon.

KANTHOR: Oh, my pleasure. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.