FILE- In this file photo taken on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015, a man stand near his home next to a board stating that his home is under quarantine, twenty one days are the quarantine time, due to the Ebola virus in the Kambia district, in Kambia, Sierra Leone. The number of Ebola cases reported in Guinea and Sierra Leone last week dropped to its lowest total this year, the World Health Organization announced Thursday, May 7, 2015, just days before Liberia is due to be declared Ebola-free. AP Photo/ Michael Duff, File)
According to Bloomberg, China’s lengthy, government-mandated quarantines have led to unintended consequences – the country’s divorce rate has surged. Spending nearly two months in a lockdown with her husband and two young children was too much to endure for Ms. Wu, a housewife in her 30s living southern Guangdong province. After disagreeing about everything, all the time, for so long, they’ve finally found something they agree on – divorce.
The city of Xian, in central China, and Dazhou, in Sichuan province, both reported record-high numbers of divorce filings in early March, leading to long backlogs at government offices. In Hunan province’s Miluo, “staff members didn’t even have time to drink water” because so many couples lined up to file, according to a report in mid-March on the city government website. Clerks struggled to keep up, processing a record number in a single day, it said. “Trivial matters in life led to the escalation of conflicts, and poor communication has caused everyone to be disappointed in marriage and make the decision to divorce,” the city registration center’s director, Yi Xiaoyan, was quoted as saying.
Shanghai divorce lawyer Steve Li saw his caseload increase by 25% in two weeks. He said the lockdown was preceded by the Lunar New Year holiday which families typically spend together. Then the virus hit. All that time together, he said, “can strain familial bonds.”
Li said, “The more time they spent together, the more they hate each other…People need space. Not just for couples—this applies to everybody.” For many it was too much.
Chinese officials are hoping that the enforced lockdown will lead to a baby boom later this year. The birthrate in China has declined considerably in recent years causing the government to not only relax the country’s long-time one-child policy, but to openly encourage couples to have a second child. The report said a banner in one community read, “As you stay home during the outbreak, the second-child policy has been loosened, so creating a second child is also contributing to your country.”
Along with the divorce rate, reports of domestic violence have risen dramatically. One county in Hubei Province reported 162 incidents of domestic violence in February compared to 47 in February 2019.
Responding to Bloomberg by email, “Feng Yuan, co-founder of Equality, a nongovernmental organization in Beijing focused on gender-based violence,” said that more people had reached out to her organization than ever before. She wrote, “Lockdown brings out latent tendencies for violence that were there before but not coming out. Lockdown also makes help seeking more difficult.”
The problems don’t end when the quarantine is lifted. The reports says that the “psychological and economic strains are expected to endure for months.” The authors cite the results of a study conducted in Hong Kong following the 2002-03 SARS epidemic:
“One year after the outbreak, SARS survivors still had elevated stress levels and worrying levels of psychological distress,” including depression and anxiety; divorce in Hong Kong’s general population in 2004 was 21% higher than 2002 levels. SARS infected nearly 1,800 people in Hong Kong and killed 299 after originating over the border in China, which reported a total of more than 5,300 cases and 336 deaths. China has so far reported more than 80,000 Covid-19 cases and more than 3,300 deaths.
According to the Global Times, a state-run media outlet in China, The China’s National People’s Congress “will consider a proposal for a 30-day cooling-off period” for those seeking a divorce. It’s a very good idea, especially after a couple has been trapped together inside a house for two months. Feelings might change after 30 days of normalcy. Or they might not.
Americans are no more patient than the Chinese and I’m sure we’ll see a spike in our divorce rate as well as an increase in the number of domestic violence incidences. These are only two of the “unintended consequences” we can expect to see.