The date of a teacher’s coronavirus-themed dinner after it was quarantined in China drew a mixture of contempt and praise.
Max Hemingway, of Dartford, Kent, and his wife Loraine drank Corona beer, dined on the coronation chicken, played the Pandemic board game, and saw Contagion help fight their crawling cabin fever.
Married English teachers, both 27 years old, and their 10 month old golden retriever, Jojo, have been in a stuck situation since the health crisis spread from its Wuhan epicenter to their extreme eastern city of Weihai in January.
About three weeks ago, Loraine says authorities have placed barriers around their neighborhood and have placed guards holding notes on doors to monitor traffic entering and leaving the community.
Their construction manager distributed special passes that residents must present each time they want to leave the barricade and only one person per apartment can leave at a time.
Even if they were allowed to go out together, Max says it would be useless as all bars, restaurants and shopping malls are closed.
So the couple decided to spend a romantic evening in “Coronavirus style”.
Their event selfies went viral, piling over 90,000 likes on Reddit and many saw the gimmick as “hilarious”.
The feedback was not positive, however, as many accused the couple of not taking the situation seriously and called it a “bland” joke.
Not everyone has thought it appropriate to make jokes about the virus, which has so far killed more than 2,700 worldwide.
One commentator said, “People out here are dying [this] disease and these guys [are] make a night. “
Another added: “This is not funny. People are dying left and right from that disease on both sides, patients and doctors. Please, make the fuck up.”
But others were prepared to defend the couple’s use of humor to deal with the distressing situation.
One supporter said, “These people are at a much greater risk of contracting the disease than you are, but you are telling them how they should deal with it. Stupid AF.”
Another added: “Get over yourself. Sometimes the only way to overcome a terrifying situation is to find comedy in it. Did you miss the part where they said they currently live in China?
“These two have a significantly higher risk of being infected with the coronavirus than 99.99% of the commentators here.”
Max, from Dartford, Kent, explained why they published the photos.
“We were trying to laugh at the virus,” he said.
“Not to people who suffer, but to the circumstances in which we find ourselves.”
Loraine, who comes from California, said: “At the end of the day they don’t know the situation.
“They are commenting from afar. From a luxury place I think at this point.
“They don’t know what it feels like to be locked up in the house, to fear if you go out or come into contact with something [that could be] contaminated.
“I think we know how much we have contributed, to help out in this situation we are in. I think if anyone has a comment to say about it, that’s their opinion.
“We took the photo for ourselves.
“They saw a snapshot but they don’t know anything else. They don’t know what we did, how we feel.”
Everyone in the community where they live is required to wear a mask and their temperatures are checked every time they go to the supermarket.
The couple tried to make a positive contribution in their Shandong province, which according to the World Health Organization had confirmed 506 cases on February 13th.
Over the past few weeks, they have solicited donations for medical supplies from the UK and America and volunteered at the Weihai Healthcare office designing awareness posters and doing translation jobs.
Recently, they tried to visit a friend’s apartment but were rejected by security.
Even the so-called “house bodies” have had enough of what they have described as “love blocking”.
Loraine said, “For us, coronavirus is an hourly thought.
“Mainly because of [our dog] Jojo. We take him for walks and every time we go out we think, OK, we pay attention to what we touch.
“[We] don’t even touch the elevator button. So it’s constantly in the back of our head how to stay safe, how to protect each other.
“I’m just very grateful to be in this situation with someone I love.”
The swirling international romance of Max and Loraine began just before Christmas in 2016, when they started a party for foreigners in Weihai.
Nine months later they married.
Loraine said she seriously considered leaving China when Coronavirus first hit.
The couple had visited his family in the Philippines and Max came back a week earlier to take care of the dog.
It was Jojo, Loraine said, who finally convinced them to stay.
Without the option of a direct flight to the United Kingdom or the United States, it would be extremely difficult to leave with their beloved puppy, who can’t wait for the barricades to go down.
Loraine said, “I’d like to take Jojo for a walk along the beach. His normal paths.
“We were trapped in the confines of the residential complex and I miss the sea.
“[But] this is where [Max and I] met and this city is where we fell in love.
“China is everything about our entire marriage. We have lived all our married life here, we have had all our milestones here.”
“We love it here. We love our city.”