City Reports: Post What?
By Chloe Chu
At various points in 2021, I heard or saw writers and collaborators describe their conditions as being “post-pandemic.” For those in Shanghai, London, and New York, for example, it seemed an apt term, for they had emerged from periods of severely curtailed movement to freely roam the streets and open art spaces, with some even traveling abroad without quarantine and largely abandoning face masks. In Hong Kong, where I am, residents were never totally restricted from leaving their homes but many of 2020’s preventative measures—tight quarantine and border controls, masks in public areas, limited people at gatherings—have remained in place, in fluctuating degrees. For me, then, what I had experienced as the pandemic had merely extended itself, and encountering the term “post-pandemic” stirred only confusion. How exactly will we know when it’s over?
The Atlantic published an article on February 24 dedicated to this question. The author Alexis C. Madrigal’s takeaway is that there isn’t a singular answer—governments each set their own benchmarks for what is deemed an acceptable level of threat. And indeed, throughout 2021, it became increasingly clear how divergent criteria and strategies are across the globe. What do zero-Covid policies, or the practices by which countries are transitioning to Covid-19 endemicity, indicate about what the authorities of these places value? How do these views differ from those of citizens? Short answers are impossible, just as it is impossible to essentialize a universal experience or understanding of the words “pandemic,” “post-pandemic,” or even “lockdown,” even though our fates under this circulating virus have been closely intertwined.