UBC Faculty Research and Publications

How did Wuhan Residents Cope with a 76-day Lockdown? Qian, Yue; Hanser, Amy


Wuhan, the original epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, was under strict lockdown for 76 days. We conducted 30 in-depth interviews to understand Wuhan residents’ lived experiences of lockdown life. We found that despite strong emotions initially, Wuhan residents quickly adapted to life under unprecedented lockdown. We identified three pre-existing structures that facilitated the effective implementation of the massive lockdown: ready-made containment units offered by urban “gated” housing, a comprehensive grassroots governance network coordinated by shequ (community residence committees), and the ubiquitous WeChat app in Chinese daily life. We also showed that the pre-existing structures provided space for uncontentious self-organizing, grassroots mobilization, and civic engagement that often dove-tailed with state-mandated measures. This study details the resources Wuhan residents drew upon to get by during the lockdown, and it illustrates that the feasibility of lockdown measures relies heavily on a society’s structural and institutional conditions.

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