Thomas Hale’s account of his experience in a COVID-19 quarantine facility, inside China’s zero-Covid regime, offers a glimpse into an eerie, dystopian parallel world.

The daily rhythm went as follows. Early in the morning, we awoke to a lawnmower-like noise, which was in fact an industrial-grade disinfectant machine spraying our windows and front steps. Meals were provided at 8am, noon and 5pm. Around 9am, two nurses in blue hazmat suits came by to administer PCR tests. Once, I asked if I would be taken somewhere else if I tested positive. “Of course you’ll be taken away!” one of the nurses said. “A new life!” she added in English.

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.