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In Beijing, coronavirus 2019-nCoV has created a siege mentality

BMJ 2020; 368 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m516 (Published 07 February 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m516

Linked Opinion

The psychological effects of quarantining a city

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  1. Heather Mowbray
  1. Beijing
  1. hcmowbray{at}gmail.com

Heather Mowbray writes from Beijing, where residents are hunkering down while following activities 1200 km away in Wuhan

Well before dusk on Friday 24 January, the lake was empty of ice skaters. Quiet was to be expected. It was Chinese New Year’s Eve, and the most important family dinner of the year was starting early.

Beijing tends to become very local over the holidays as migrants make an annual trip back home. This time, however, the eeriness had more to do with an A4 notice taped to every doorpost. Old Zhang, general manager of the Houhai yacht club, explained, “Skating is over for the season. SARS. They’ve shut the place down.”

With this began a pattern. When visiting anywhere in Beijing, even villages in the hills, I found places shut down and outsiders urged to return home. Across the border in the mountains of Hebei province, I woke on a heated brick …

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