'It gets better': Windsorite in China shares lockdown experience

David Cox, a Windsorite in China, spent two months in lockdown in China's Hubei province, and shared the experience with CBC News.

David Cox spent two months in lockdown in China's Hubei province

Windsorite David Cox moved to China in 2017 to teach English. (Submitted by David Cox)

It's been roughly three weeks since the spread of COVID-19 started to cause major changes in Canada.

So while it might feel like forever, this era of self-isolation, physical distancing and border closures is still relatively new compared to China.

David Cox has been living like this since the end of January. He's a Windsorite who moved to China in 2017 to teach English.

Cox spent two months in lockdown in the Chinese province of Hubei, the centre of the coronavirus outbreak in China. Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre reached Cox at his home in Xi'an to hear about the experience.

It feels like forever, but it's been only three weeks or so since COVID-19 started changing our lives here in Canada. We spoke with David Cox, a Windsorite in China who experienced two months of lockdown, starting in January. 7:55

The transcription of the conversation has been edited and condensed.

Xi'an — where you live — is not in Hubei. How did you end up getting caught in a lockdown there?

Well, my brother has been going to his fiancé's hometown in Hubei province for the last three years for Spring Festival, which is pretty much the most important festival holiday in China, kind of like Christmas. Last year, the family invited me to come the following year, which was this year. So this has been in the works for a while. 

It was intended to be a four day stay — and that turned into two months.- David Cox

I had heard about the virus in Wuhan, but where I was staying was about 500 kilometres away. I figured it was okay, so I went with my brother.

At that point, you ended up in quarantine with your brother and his fiancée's family. Were you close with her family?

I had not met her family. It was intended to be a four day stay — and that turned into two months.

So what was it like being in such incredibly close quarters with your brother and his girlfriend and his girlfriend's family — whom you hardly even knew?

I mean, everybody knew the situation was out of our control. Tensions definitely rose between me and my brother a couple of times, but we're brothers, so we can get over a little squabble or argument.

I think overall things went really smooth; the family obviously wasn't super pleased with having to cook for two extra people every day.

As time progressed, things started loosening up a little bit more. The last week and a half, my brother and I were able to go to the grocery store and we cooked for ourselves, which was nice.

A selfie Cox took while under lockdown in Hubei. (Submited by David Cox)

I understand the two of you even had to share a bed for a while?

Yeah, [the trip was supposed to be] four days, [so] my brother was like, 'we can do four days sharing a bed.'

After about a week or two, there was one day I went downstairs to go sleep on the family couch. The next morning the dad of the family made a makeshift bed in the room.

My brother volunteered to go in the makeshift bed and I had a bed to myself. So that made things much smoother.

It almost sounds like a family comedy in the way that you were all thrown together and had to go through this time together. What did you do to pass the time?

Luckily, I brought my Nintendo Switch and all of my games with me. I hadn't played Skyrim yet, so I started playing that. My brother downloaded it [as well] and we played that together, which was fun.

There was a couple of times where I'd be in the living room and they'd be watching a Chinese program and they'd have English subtitles, so I kind of got to follow what was going on.

A lot of sleeping.

My brother did a series of TikTok videos called "quarantine boredom avoidance tips" and then his girlfriend, she did dance videos — she actually got a really big following.

Her lives would get like 300 to 400 people. She had a dedicated following and got thousands and thousands of followers during the time. I heard her K-Pop music constantly going through the house.

You're now back in Xi'an. How would you describe what life is like there right now?

Things are pretty much getting back to normal. In China, they have a QR code system. Everybody downloads this little app that has a QR code — it's either red, yellow or green. Everybody in China lives in communities, kind of apartments all clustered together, it's a community.

If you have a red code, you can't leave the community, if you have a yellow code you can leave but you can't get into malls or restaurants, and if you have a green code, you can get anywhere.

Cox took this picture Monday of life returning to normal in Xi'an. (Submitted by David Cox)

When I returned to Xi'an from Hubei, I was put into hotel quarantine, which my brother didn't have to do in Chongqing — he was allowed to go into his apartment right away.

Right now, the official policy is for people coming from overseas into China, they have to do a 14 day hotel quarantine. I was able to file a petition, my boss called the department that deals with it and they changed my code to yellow.

I went to the local convenience store within my community — because I knew I couldn't leave because I had the yellow code — and I checked the code and it was green!

So the last couple days, I went to go visit my friend, I went to the supermarket and was able to buy food.

When you walk outside there's lots of people; I took a Didi — which is China's Uber — and it took me a while to get [to my destination] because traffic was bad.

What would your message be to your fellow Windsorites who are just at the beginning of life during a pandemic?

My message would be that life gets better. You're going to have to go through a bit of a struggle, but yeah, it just it gets better.

But take it seriously. If you don't need to go outside, don't go outside. If you can order food from a grocery store, order food from the grocery store — don't drive there.

If everybody stays in this together and takes it seriously, then within a month or two things will be — well, not exactly a hundred percent normal, but, you know, back to normal.

About the Author

Jonathan Pinto is a reporter/editor at CBC Windsor, primarily assigned to Afternoon Drive, CBC Radio's regional afternoon show for southwestern Ontario. Email


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