Desperation sets in for South African man in Wuhan

  • AW1
South African ex-pat Adam Wolov looks out the window of his tiny flat in Wuhan, China, to see barbed wire around the building in which he lives. He literally lives in a prison created by the Chinese authorities to try and stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
by JORDAN MOSHE | Mar 05, 2020

For more than 40 days, Wolov and his family have been kept in lockdown in their apartment, seldom being allowed to set foot outdoors. He and other residents of his area are hemmed in at every turn in his neighbourhood by barbed wire, electric fences, and chained gates.

Wolov says cabin fever is an understatement as their plight grows increasingly desperate. “We’re really worried about our situation,” he said in a video uploaded to YouTube. “I’m married and have two children. I can’t work, my wife can’t work, and our kids can’t go to school.

“We’re locked down in our community, and aren’t supposed to be going anywhere. All the gates are locked. We’re worried about how much longer were going to be able to survive under these conditions.”

When the SA Jewish Report first spoke to Wolov at the end of January, the Johannesburg-born Jewish man had been under quarantine for less than a week, donning protective gear when he ventured out into the deserted streets of Wuhan. Since then, his daily reality has become increasingly difficult, his movements severely restricted, and his family’s funds are fast running out.

This week, Wolov told the SA Jewish Report in a telephonic interview, “Now we aren’t allowed to leave our neighbourhood [roughly 20 closely-packed apartment blocks] at all. We have to order food online, and pick it up at designated areas in the community.” The harsher quarantine measures were recently imposed in an effort to curb the rate of infection after initial measures failed.

Wolov’s daily routine has remained the same for weeks. “I’m awake most nights trying to come up with ways to support my family and make sure we have what we need. I spend the day trying to keep busy.”

Every morning, he gets up to exercise, entertain his children, take stock of supplies, and find ways to provide for his family. He routinely disinfects his home as well, sterilising floors, clothes, and any items which have come in from the outside. Wolov keeps his mind busy by reading copiously and engaging with people on social media. When his son asked if he could help him resume his learning, Wolov seized the opportunity.

“My six-year-old son came to me last week and asked me to learn with him. My one-year-old daughter has joined us as well. Learning with them gives us something constructive to do.”

Because of the ongoing quarantine, it has become difficult to get supplies. Wolov orders food online and the government delivers essentials, but he says the process can take days and deliveries aren’t always reliable. There is also a shortage of certain items, making the situation even more aggravating.

“I’ve ventured out only a handful of times in the past few weeks,” he says. “In the beginning, we were able to leave the area without permits as long as we took the necessary safety measures. Now, we can hardly leave our building. Sometimes this feels like a prison sentence, but I understand it’s for our own safety.

“I went downstairs last night to pick up some fruit from a friend,” he says. “While downstairs, I looked out and saw the extent of the lockdown – gates blocked off, barbed-wire fencing blocking us in and keeping people from leaving.

“I know it’s for a good reason, but I would never have expected such a reality here. The risk of infection is real, and we’ve had cases of infection in our neighbourhood – an entire family in the building opposite ours was recently infected. It’s terrifying to think about, and I worry constantly for my family’s safety.”

Wolov has tried to have his family evacuated to South Africa, where his parents live. But in spite of numerous conversations with the South African department of home affairs, they cannot come here as neither of his children have passports.

And his parents in Johannesburg, who are in poor health, are desperate to help their son and his family. However, they are powerless as they simply don’t have the necessary resources to assist.

Wolov has turned to the internet in the hope of raising the funds necessary to help his family live day by day. “Our savings have pretty much been spent on food and supplies,” he says. “I’ve created an online store which generates some money to support my family.”

The store stocks various items of clothing which feature a picture of the Chinese metropolis on which are superimposed the words, “Pray For Wuhan”. The t-shirts, hoodies, and sweatshirts are produced and shipped remotely.

There is no set date for life to return to normal. The Chinese government has made it known that restoration of normality can be expected only when there are no new cases of the virus reported. Until then, he remains trapped.

His family anchors his sanity, he says. “When my children look at me, they give me the strength to go on. They’re my support system. If I were alone with no family, I’d be going completely crazy. I do keep busy by reading, exercising, and keeping up to date on social media, but I’d really be struggling if it weren’t for my wife and children.”

He stressed the vital role friends and family play in keeping him going. “Their support has been incredible,” says Wolov. “People send messages and prayers all the time, and many others are buying from the online store. I know we’re not facing this alone.”

He says he has learnt a crucial lesson since the outbreak of Covid-19, namely appreciation. “This whole experience is a lesson for the world which shows us that things can change in instant.

“I took for granted a lot of things in my life – all the little joys and freedom in general. People need to appreciate what they have, and value the daily lives they enjoy.”

  • You can buy from Wolov’s online store on Alternatively, donations can also be made via PayPal at

1 Comment

  1. 1 Karen Dodo 05 Mar
    Can we create a fund for Adam and his family?


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