COVID-19 Vocabulary in Chinese: 87+ Phrases to Discuss the Pandemic

COVID-19 Mandarin Chinese Vocabulary

Even after 4 years, topics of the Covid-19 pandemic are still popular in China as they once dominated Chinese people’s daily lives. Whether you’re living in China or traveling to this country, knowing the common Covid vocabulary in Mandarin Chinese such as testing, symptoms, vaccines, and isolation can be incredibly useful as you will probably need to respond to these words very often.

So here’s your quick guide to learning all the necessary Chinese vocabulary for Covid-19. We’ve crafted an essential list (and explanation) of Chinese terms – separated into five sections – that are being used to talk about the coronavirus outbreak. You’ll be able to expand your vocabulary even if you are an advanced Mandarin speaker!

And once you understand the words and phrases, you can learn some useful sentences to discuss the pandemic in Chinese, and share your Covid anecdotes, too!

Sound good? Let’s dig in!

First and foremost, let’s learn how to say Covid-19 and coronavirus in Chinese.

Covid in Chinese

The word for “Covid-19” in Mandarin Chinese, as a term for the infectious disease, is 新冠肺炎 (xīnguān fèiyán) – literally “new corona pneumonia”, while the virus that causes the disease – “novel coronavirus” in Chinese is 新冠病毒 (xīnguān bìngdú). However, in both cases, you can also simply say the short version 新冠 (xīnguān) as a general term.

Note that although the official pronunciation of 新冠 is xīnguān, most Chinese people pronounce it as xīnguàn, and it’s okay for you to do so too. (The multiple pronunciation character 冠 is normally pronounced with the fourth tone, although it should be changed into the first tone in this context). Either way, people would understand.

How to Say “I Got Covid” in Chinese

COVID-19 in Mandarin Chinese

In Chinese, the expression we use the most for “I got Covid-19” is 我得了新冠 (Wǒ dé le xīnguān). You’ll want to use this expression when you actually have Covid. If you have had Covid before, say 我得过新冠 (Wǒ dé guò xīnguān) instead. And if you want to ask someone “Have you had Covid?”, you say 你得过新冠吗? (Nǐ dé guò xīnguān ma?)

Related Reading: 了 (le) vs 过 (guò) – When to Use Which

A slightly more formal way of saying “I got Covid” in Chinese is to replace 得 (dé) with 感染 (gǎnrǎn) and say 我感染了新冠 (Wǒ gǎnrǎn le xīnguān). The word 感染 (gǎnrǎn), which often appears in newspapers and broadcasts, means “infect” or “be infected”. (read more about this word)

Finally, the simplest form of “I got Covid” in Chinese is 我阳了 (Wǒ yáng le) – literally “I am positive”, meaning I tested positive for Covid.

Interestingly, many Chinese people tend to make a pun on the character 阳 (yáng) – “positive” by replacing it with 羊 (yáng) – the character for “sheep” (or just a sheep emoji) in text messages or when they announce it on social media. So, don’t be surprised when a Chinese person claims he/she is a sheep – 我羊了 (Wǒ yáng le). It just means they got Covid.

Other punny expressions include 小羊人 (xiǎo yáng rén) – people with Covid, “little sheep dudes”, and 羊圈 (yáng juàn) – crowd infected with Covid, “sheep pen”. Of course, these are rather casual expressions and should only be used with friends or people you are familiar with.

Now that you know how to say Covid-19 and coronavirus in Chinese, we’ll help you to build your essential Covid vocabulary.

General Chinese Covid Vocabulary

There are lots of terms we want to share with you. Here’s a list of the most basic vocabulary words and expressions to get you started on talking about Covid-19 in Mandarin Chinese.

pandemic全球疫情quánqiú yìqíng
variant变异毒株biànyì dúzhū
Covid test新冠检测xīnguān jiǎncè
Covid case新冠病例xīnguān bìnglì

Before we add more words to this list, here are some technicalities to help you understand how to use these most common Covid words in Chinese.

1. Epidemic in Chinese: 疫情 (yìqíng)

With 疫 (yì) meaning “epidemic” or “plague”, and 情 (qíng) meaning “situation”, the word 疫情 (yìqíng) basically refers to a situation of a virus outbreak. In daily conversations, very often Chinese people use this relatively general term to address Covid.

Sample sentences:

  • 疫情对经济造成了巨大影响。
    Yìqíng duì jīngjì zàochéng le jùdà yǐngxiǎng.
    The epidemic has had a huge impact on the economy.

2. Pandemic in Chinese: 全球疫情 (quánqiú yìqíng)

The word for “pandemic” in Chinese is 全球疫情 (quánqiú yìqíng), literally “global epidemic”. This is the word you can use when you are talking about an epidemic such as Covid-19 that has spread over continents.

Sample sentences:

  • 没人知道全球疫情会怎样结束。
    Méirén zhīdào quánqiú yìqíng huì zěnyàng jiéshù.
    No one knows how the pandemic will end.

3. Virus in Chinese: 病毒 (bìngdú)

In Chinese, the word for “virus” is 病毒 (bìngdú), where 病 (bìng) means “disease” or “illness”, and 毒 (dú) means “poison” or “toxin”.

Sample sentences:

  • 新冠不是细菌,而是病毒
    Xīnguān búshì xìjūn, érshì bìngdú.
    Covid-19 is not a bacteria, but a virus.

4. Covid Variant in Chinese: 新冠变异毒株 (xīnguān biànyì dúzhū)

Numerous variants of the virus that causes Covid-19 are being tracked globally during this pandemic. In Chinese, Covid variants are called 新冠变异毒株 (xīnguān biànyì dúzhū), literally “Covid mutant poison strains”.

Sample sentences:

  • 新冠变异毒株已经发现超一千种!
    Xīnguān biànyì dúzhū yǐjīng fāxiàn chāo yì qiān zhǒng!
    Over 1000 Covid-19 variants have been found!

5. Omicron in Chinese: 奥密克戎 (Àomìkèróng)

All major Covid-19 variants have their official Chinese name. Omicron, the variant of concern now is called 奥密克戎 (Àomìkèróng) in Chinese while the earlier Delta variant is transliterated as 德尔塔 (Dé’ěrtǎ).

Sample sentences:

  • 所有的变异毒株,包括德尔塔和奥密克戎,对某些人群来说都很危险。
    Suǒyǒu de biànyì dúzhū, bāokuò Dé’ěrtǎ hé Àomìkèróng, duì mǒu xiē rénqún lái shuō dōu hěn wēixiǎn.
    All variants, including Delta and Omicron, can be dangerous to certain populations.

Related Reading: How English Names Are Translated into Chinese

6. Infection in Chinese: 感染 (gǎnrǎn)

The word 感染 (gǎnrǎn) can be both a verb and a noun. For instance:

  • Verb:
    Wǒmen dōu gǎnrǎn guò xīnguān.
    We’ve all had Covid.
  • Noun:
    Èrcì xīnguān gǎnrǎn kěnéng huì gèng wēixiǎn.
    Repeat Covid infections could be more dangerous.  

And the people who are infected are called 感染者 (gǎnrǎnzhě) in Chinese.

Sample sentences:

  • 大多新冠感染者都已经恢复了。
    Dàduō xīnguān gǎnrǎnzhě dōu yǐjīng huīfù le.
    Most of the people that had Covid have already recovered.

7. Spread in Chinese: 传播 (chuánbō)

Numerous efforts have been made across the globe to stop or, at least, delay the spread of Covid-19. In Chinese, the word for “spread” is 传播 (chuánbō). It may also be used to say “transmit”. 

Sample sentences:

  • 任何新冠感染者都可以将病毒传播给他人。
    Rènhé xīnguān gǎnrǎnzhě dōu kěyǐ jiāng bìngdú chuánbō gěi tārén.
    Anyone who has Covid-19 can spread the virus to others. 

8. Covid Test in Chinese: 新冠检测 (xīnguān jiǎncè)

In Chinese, the term for the Covid-19 test is 新冠检测 (xīnguān jiǎncè) in which 检测 (jiǎncè) means “detection” or “testing”. Don’t confuse the word with 考试 (kǎoshì), which refers to an exam at school.

Sample sentences:

  • 现在你可以在家做新冠检测
    Xiànzài nǐ kěyǐ zài jiā zuò xīnguān jiǎncè.
    Nowadays you can take a Covid-19 test at home.

You can learn more Chinese vocabulary related to Covid-19 testing in this section.

9. Covid Case in Chinese: 新冠病例 (xīnguān bìnglì)

病例 (bìnglì) – literally “disease instance” is the word we use in Chinese to describe a particular instance of a disease. A confirmed case is called 确诊病例 (quèzhěn bìnglì) whereas a suspected case is called 疑似病例 (yísì bìnglì).

Sample sentences:

  • 新冠病例数目持续上升。
    Xīnguān bìnglì shùmù chíxù shàngshēng.
    The number of Covid-19 cases continues to go up.

10. Symptom in Chinese: 症状 (zhèngzhuàng)

The word for “symptom” in Chinese is 症状 (zhèngzhuàng), literally “illness status”. Patients who don’t show symptoms are referred to as 无症状 (wú zhèngzhuàng) in Chinese.

Sample sentences:

  • 常见的新冠症状包括咳嗽,发烧,和喉咙痛。
    Chángjiàn de xīnguān zhèngzhuàng bāokuò késòu, fā shāo, hé hóulóng tòng.
    Common Covid-19 symptoms include cough, fever, and sore throat.
  • 很多新冠感染者都是无症状
    Hěnduō xīnguān gǎnrǎnzhě dōu shì wú zhèngzhuàng.
    Many people infected with Covid-19 were asymptomatic.

Learn more Chinese words connected to Covid-19 symptoms in this section.

11. Immunity in Chinese: 免疫 (miǎnyì)

You may use the word 免疫 (miǎnyì) for “immunity” and “immune”. Literally, the word means “free from epidemic”.

Sample sentences:

  • 奥密克戎告诉我们群体免疫可能只是一种空想。
    Àomìkèróng gàosù wǒmen qúntǐ miǎnyì kěnéng zhǐ shì yì zhǒng kōngxiǎng.
    Omicron shows us herd immunity might just be a pipe dream.

12. Vaccine in Chinese: 疫苗 (yìmiáo)

The word for “vaccine” in Chinese is 疫苗 (yìmiáo). 疫 (yì) stands for 免疫 (miǎnyì) – “immunity” here and 苗 (miáo) means “seedling”. So basically 疫苗 (yìmiáo) means a seedling growing in your body that’ll give you immunity.

You can use this term whenever you’re talking about vaccines in general. To refer to Covid-19 vaccines, you can say 新冠疫苗 (xīnguān yìmiáo).

Sample sentences:

  • 新冠疫苗有助于阻止疫情传播。
    Xīnguān yìmiáo yǒu zhù yú zǔzhǐ yìqíng chuánbō.
    Vaccines help stop the spread of Covid-19.  

More Chinese vocabulary related to Covid-19 vaccinations can be found in this section.

13. Quarantine in Chinese: 隔离 (gélí)

The word “quarantine” in Chinese is 隔离 (gélí). It involves separating and restricting the movements of people with confirmed cases (确诊病例/quèzhěn bìnglì) or close contact (密接/mìjiē) to see if they become sick.

In China, quarantine is usually done at home (居家隔离/jūjiā gélí) or in an assigned hotel (酒店隔离/jiǔdiàn gélí). To say a 3-day quarantine period in Chinese, you say 三天隔离 ( sān tiān gélí).

Sample sentences:

  • 前往中国的旅行者不再需要隔离
    Qiánwǎng Zhōngguó de lǚxíngzhě bú zài xūyào gélí.
    Quarantine is no longer required for travelers to China.

14. Lockdown in Chinese: 封控 (fēngkòng)

The word for “lockdown” in Chinese is 封控 (fēngkòng) in which 封 (fēng) means “seal off” and 控 (kòng) means “control”. In addition, you may say 封城 (fēng chéng) if you are specifically talking about a city-wide lockdown. And to say “lift lockdown”, you say 解除封控 (jiěchú fēngkòng), or in short – 解封 (jiě fēng).

Sample sentences:

  • 其他国家早就解除新冠封控了。
    Qítā guójiā zǎo jiù jiěchú xīnguān fēngkòng le.
    Other countries lifted Covid-19 lockdowns long ago.

15. Zero-Covid in Chinese: 清零 (qīnglíng)

The term for Zero-Covid strategy in Chinese is 清零 (qīnglíng), literally, “eradicate to zero”.

For years, China succeeded in preventing the spread of Covid-19, until it didn’t. After a series of street protests against strict lockdowns and extensive testing, the Chinese government finally had to ditch the 清零 (qīnglíng) policy at the end of 2022 and went for 放开 (fàngkāi) – “let go”.

Sample sentences:

  • 长期清零政策被证明是不现实的。
    Chángqī qīnglíng zhèngcè bèi zhèngmíng shì bú xiànshí de.
    The long-term zero-Covid policy proved to be not realistic.

Now that you have the general words related to Covid-19 in Chinese, it’s time to learn some more specific vocabulary to discuss the different aspects of Covid.

Check out these additional Chinese word lists around Covid divided into categories. We’ve included in each section some sample sentences that may help you get inspired to make a few of your own. Once you are familiar with the expressions, you’ll be able to talk about the Covid symptoms, lockdowns, vaccines, and more all in Chinese!

Covid Symptoms in Chinese

COVID symptoms in Mandarin Chinese

Covid-19 affects different people in different ways. The following are the most common Covid symptoms expressed in Mandarin Chinese. Knowing these words and phrases can be very helpful if you need to consult a doctor in China. They are also just good to know in general!

(If you want to branch out beyond Covid, we also have a general post on Chinese medical terms and phrases.)

asymptomatic无症状wú zhèngzhuàng
mild symptoms轻症qīng zhèng
severe symptoms重症zhòng zhèng
incubation period潜伏期qiánfú qī
fever发烧fā shāo
chills发冷fā lěng
sore throat喉咙痛hóulóng tòng
stuffy nose鼻塞bí sè
runny nose流鼻涕liú bítì
headache头痛tóu tòng
muscle aches肌肉痛jīròu tòng
dizziness头晕tóu yūn
diarrhea腹泻fù xiè
loss of taste味觉丧失wèijué sàngshī
lost of smell嗅觉丧失xiùjué sàngshī
trouble breathing呼吸困难hūxī kùnnán
long Covid长期新冠chángqī xīnguān
recover (from Covid)阳康yáng kāng

Sample Sentences:

  • 你的症状是什么?
    Nǐ de zhèngzhuàng shì shénme?
    What are your symptoms?
  • 我没有任何症状。
    Wǒ méiyǒu rènhé zhèngzhuàng.
    I don’t have any symptoms.
  • 我得新冠的时候发了三天烧。
    Wǒ dé xīnguān de shíhou fā le sān tiān shāo.
    I had a three-day fever when I got Covid.
  • 我喉咙痛,味觉和嗅觉也丧失了。
    Wǒ hóulóng tòng, wèijué hé xiùjué yě sàngshī le.
    I have a sore throat, and I lost my sense of taste and smell.
  • 鼻塞和肌肉痛似乎是XBB变异毒株最常见的症状。
    Bí sè hé jīròu tòng sìhū shì XBB biànyì dúzhū zuì chángjiàn de zhèngzhuàng.
    Congestion and muscle aches appear to be the most common XBB variant symptoms.
  • 我已经完全阳康了。
    Wǒ yǐjīng wánquán yáng kāng le.
    I have fully recovered from a Covid infection.

Things to Say in Chinese If Someone’s Got Covid:
多保重 (Duō bǎo zhòng) – “Take good care”
好好休息 (Hǎo hǎo xiūxi) – “Have a good rest”
祝你早日阳康 (Zhù nǐ zǎorì yáng kāng) – “Wish you recover soon”

Chinese Vocabulary Related to Covid Isolation and Precautions

COVID Precaution Measures in Chinese

Wearing masks, social distancing, constantly washing hands, working and learning remotely – we’ve adjusted to follow “best practice” prevention guidelines to contain the spread of Covid-19. Below are commonly used terms in Chinese to describe these efforts.

wash hands constantly勤洗手qín xǐ shǒu
hand sanitizer洗手液xǐ shǒu yè
wear a mask戴口罩dài kǒuzhào
hazmat suit防护服fánghù fú
wear a hazmat suit穿防护服chuān fánghù fú
measure temperature测体温cè tǐwēn
go out less often少出门shǎo chūmén
work from home居家工作jūjiā gōngzuò
learn remotely上网课shàng wǎng kè
social-distancing保持社交距离bǎochí shèjiāo jùlí
centralized quarantine集中隔离jízhōng gélí
home-isolation居家隔离jūjiā gélí
self-isolation自我隔离zìwǒ gélí
self-monitoring自我监测zìwǒ jiāncè
travel restrictions旅行限制lǚxíng xiànzhì

Sample Sentences:

  • 新冠疫情致使越来越多的员工居家工作。
    Xīnguān yìqíng zhìshǐ yuè lái yuè duō de yuángōng jūjiā gōngzuò.
    Covid-19 has led to more and more employees working from home.
  • 近两年来,我都在家上网课。
    Jìn liǎng nián lái, wǒ dōu zài jiā shàng wǎng kè.
    For nearly two years, I have been learning remotely at home.
  • 为阻止新冠的传播,官方建议保持社交距离。
    Wèi zǔzhǐ xīnguān de chuánbō, guānfāng jiànyì bǎochí shèjiāo jùlí.
    To help stop the spread of coronavirus, the authorities recommend social-distancing.
  • 如果你得了新冠,就必须自我隔离五天。
    Rúguǒ nǐ dé le xīnguān, jiù bìxū zìwǒ gélí wǔ tiān.
    If you have Covid-19 you must self-isolate for 5 days. 
da bai in China
The hazmat-wearing health-care workers are nicknamed 大白 (dà bái) – “big white” in China after the Disney animated character Baymax who shares the same Chinese name.

Chinese Vocabulary Related to Covid Testing

In China, medical staff will take a “swab test” (usually done in the mouth) to collect cells to test for Covid. Mass testing proved to be effective in reducing the likelihood of further spreading the virus until the zero-Covid policy was ended. Now tests are only available at designated hospitals.

Below are the words relevant to the Covid-19 test in Chinese.

Covid test新冠检测xīnguān jiǎncè
testing center检测点jiǎncè diǎn
testing kits检测试剂盒jiǎncè shìjì hé
self-testing自测zì cè
molecular testing (PCR)核酸检测hésuān jiǎncè
antigen testing抗原检测kàngyuán jiǎncè
take a PCR test做核酸zuò hésuān
take an antigen test做抗原zuò kàngyuán
nose swab捅鼻子tǒng bízi
throat swab捅喉咙tǒng hóulóng
test result检测结果jiǎncè jiéguǒ
test positive阳性yáng xìng
test negative阴性yīn xìng

Sample Sentences:

  • 封控期间居民需要每三天做一次核酸。
    Fēngkòng qījiān jūmín xūyào měi sān tiān zuò yí cì hésuān.
    During the lockdown period, residents need to take a PCR test every three days.
  • 现在新冠检测点比以前少多了。
    Xiànzài xīnguān jiǎncè diǎn bǐ yǐqián shǎo duō le.
    There are now far fewer Covid testing sites than before.
  • 如果你有新冠感染症状,可以在家做一个快速抗原。
    Rúguǒ nǐ yǒu xīnguān gǎnrǎn zhèngzhuàng, kěyǐ zài jiā zuò yí gè kuàisù kàngyuán.  
    You can take a rapid antigen test at home if you have symptoms of Covid-19 infection.
  • 我早上做了抗原,然后发现自己又阳了。
    Wǒ zǎoshang zuò le kàngyuán, ránhòu fāxiàn zìjǐ yòu yáng le.
    I did the antigen test this morning and got a positive result again.
  • 乘客需要在登机时出示四十八小时内核酸阴性证明。
    Chéngkè xūyào zài dēngjī shí chūshì sì shí bā xiǎoshí nèi hésuān yīnxìng zhèngmíng.
    Passengers are required to present a negative PCR test result within 48 hours upon boarding.
  • 检测结果出来了,还好我是阴性。
    Jiǎncè jiéguǒ chūlái le, háihǎo wǒ shì yīn xìng.
    The test result came out. Luckily I tested negative.

Chinese Vocabulary Related to Covid Vaccination

COVID vaccine in Mandarin Chinese

Vaccines can help protect against severe illness, hospitalization, and death from Covid. Here are some common words and phrases you can use to describe Covid-19 vaccination in Chinese.

get vaccinated打疫苗dǎ yìmiáo
get vaccinated (formal)接种疫苗jiēzhòng yìmiáo
vaccination疫苗接种yìmiáo jiēzhòng
proof of vaccination疫苗接种证明yìmiáo jiēzhòng zhèngmíng
one-dose vaccine一剂/针疫苗yí jì/zhēn yìmiáo
two-dose vaccine两剂/针疫苗liǎng jì/zhēn yìmiáo
booster shot加强针jiāqiáng zhēn
fully vaccinated完全接种疫苗wánquán jiēzhòng
vaccine passport疫苗护照yìmiáo hùzhào

Sample Sentences:

  • 打疫苗是降低新冠风险最好的办法。
    Dǎ yìmiáo shì jiàngdī xīnguān fēngxiǎn zuìhǎo de bànfǎ.
    Getting vaccinated is the best way to reduce the risk of Covid-19.
  • 一些完全接种疫苗的人仍会感染新冠。
    Yìxiē wánquán jiēzhòng yìmiáo de rén réng huì gǎnrǎn xīnguān.
    Some fully vaccinated people will still get Covid. 
  • 但是新冠疫苗可以防重症。
    Dànshì xīnguān yìmiáo kěyǐ fáng zhòng zhèng.
    However, Covid-19 vaccines could prevent severe illness.
  • 我一共打过三针疫苗,包括一针加强针。
    Wǒ yígòng dǎ guò sān zhēn yìmiáo, bāokuò yì zhēn jiāqiáng zhēn.
    I have had a total of three shots of the vaccine, including a booster shot.
  • 所有旅行者都需要出示至少两剂新冠疫苗接种证明才能进入这个国家。
    Suǒyǒu lǚxíngzhě dōu xūyào chūshì zhìshǎo liǎng jì xīnguān yìmiáo jiēzhòng zhèngmíng cái néng jìnrù zhè gè guójiā.
    All travelers need to present evidence of at least two doses of a Covid vaccination to enter this country.

Summary: Talking about Covid-19 in Chinese

The most simple word for Covid in Chinese is 新冠 (xīnguān). The same term can be used for the epidemic disease as well as the virus itself. In daily conversations, Chinese people also use the word 疫情 (yìqíng) to refer to the Covid-19 situation in general.

To say “someone’s got Covid”, there are three ways depending on the formality: … 得了新冠 (dé le xīnguān), …感染了新冠 (gǎnrǎn le xīnguān), and …阳了 (yáng le). To wish someone a speedy recovery, say 祝你早日阳康 (Zhù nǐ zǎorì yáng kāng). Other words and phrases related to Covid symptoms, testing, vaccines, quarantine, and lockdowns are also useful to know when you want to strike up conversations with Chinese people around this topic or for just improving your Chinese skills in general.

Bonus: Has Covid-19 Affected Your Chinese Learning?

learn Chinese during the pandemic

Well, it certainly won’t stand in the way of your Chinese fluency from now on!

After three years of strict restrictions, China finally opened borders to international students without quarantine requirements! Find out the best Mandarin schools to study Chinese in China this year or continue to learn Chinese online from the comfort of your home.

Scroll to Top