Lessons on Handling Coronavirus from South African Teacher in China

By Michael Herbstein

China, home of kung fu, kung pao chicken and the coronavirus… writes South African teacher in China Michael Herbstein. As a Saffer living in China during these exciting times, and having a mother that some would politely describe as neurotic, I’m constantly shared an endless stream of news surrounding COVID-19 from back home. Some of it containing facts, whilst most of it wouldn’t seem out of place in an H.P. Lovecraft novel.

south african teacher in china on coronavirus
Photo: Michael Herbstein

Spending the last 40 days in a self-induced state of quarantine hasn’t made me an expert on the topic, but it has given me some perspective. So whether you like it or not, I’m sharing some of those insights:

Not every Chinese person is infected with the virus. I’m pretty sure you don’t avoid the aisle of pots and pans at Woolies in fear of ingesting Teflon, so show a little compassion next time you see a Chinese person instead of skulking away in fear, unless of course they’re coughing violently. In that case, run.

Speaking of all things Chinese, you won’t get infected by nibbling on a takeaway dumpling nor is there a factory line of infected workers in China sneezing into your precious packages, so rallying to boycott the sale of Chinese goods and foods doesn’t make you a hero of society. It makes you a racist. It’s also the antithesis of what you preach from your “made in China” pulpit.


If you’re going to share information on social media, let it be factual and from a reliable source. Sharing a link to a video of an overweight bigot wearing a MAGA cap whilst he chugs down a bucket of KFC and spews unsubstantiated conspiracies doesn’t make you controversial and woke, it makes you an asshole.

Stop hoarding toilet paper. Chronic diarrhoea is not a symptom of the virus, so calm the f*ck down Ethel and rather stock up on some Xanax. It’s a far more productive remedy for being full of shit.

You wouldn’t steal a handbag, so don’t go stealing masks. They prevent you from spreading the virus, they don’t prevent you from contracting it. Plus, you’ll end up looking like a hypochondriac and possibly even a suspect.

Finally, don’t panic. It doesn’t help anyone. We’re not about to perish from this pandemic. This isn’t our immune systems’ first rodeo with a virus, and it won’t be its last. Just wash your hands frequently and cover your mouth when ejecting saliva. And even if you’re starving, don’t eat pangolin.

By Michael Herbstein

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