There were far fewer cars on the streets and bustling crowds were not seen in the shopping malls in the central Chinese city of Wuhan on Jan. 24 — the Eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year.
The scene was quite different from the occasion in the previous years because of the novel coronavirus that has claimed over 40 lives and infected over a thousand nationwide. With a population of over 10 million, Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei Province, is the center of the epidemic.
Yang Yingchen, a volunteer of the Red Cross Society of China’s Wuhan branch, had a busy day answering calls.
“People from across the nation called to check on accounts and addresses to make donations,” said Yang. “Many would say ‘Come on, Wuhan’ to us, which makes me feel especially warm and deeply moved.”
Chen Li, a doctor in a Wuhan hospital, spent the Chinese Lunar New Year’s Eve at home to quarantine herself. She is a little bit worried about having had contact with infected patients, but luckily she has no signs of symptoms for the time being.
“Before joining the fight against the epidemic, I had sent my four-year-old son to my parents. I has disinfected all the articles in my house,” she said.
Chen’s husband is at the forefront of the fight against the epidemic. “We haven’t seen each other for over a week,” said Chen. On Saturday morning, she put on protective clothing again and returned to work.
“Actually, I can’t be isolated for too long. There’s still a lot of work to be done,” she said. “I just don’t know when I can see my boy again.”
The virus had resulted in 41 deaths in China by the end of Friday, mostly in Wuhan, according to the National Health Commission. Nationwide, a total of 1,287 cases were confirmed, including 237 in critical condition.
Confirmed cases were also reported in China’s Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, as well as Thailand, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the United States, Vietnam, Singapore, Nepal and France.
Wuhan is following Beijing’s SARS treatment model in 2003 to build a makeshift hospital with a capability of 1,000 beds for admitting infected patients. Construction on the facility began Thursday night. It will be completed and put into use prior to Feb. 3, less than 10 days away.
“It’s going to be another all-nighter. We need to speed up work and complete the hospital as soon as possible,” said Lyu Jun, a young truck driver at the construction site. This is his first Spring Festival away from home.
For ordinary people, this year’s Lunar New Year’s Eve lacks some gatherings but is still a time to extend greetings and wishes.
Yin Yeqiong, from Hunan Province, refunded her tickets back home after much debate. “I had it in my mind to still go home, but finally decided to stay in Wuhan,” she said. “Our stay will help reduce panic in other places.”
Liu Jie, a dough sculptor, put on a New Year costume and watched the Spring Festival Gala with his family. “We’re now at a critical period, so I texted New Year wishes to friends and relatives this year. I believe this is the best way,” he said.
Liu Jiapeng, a children’s book editor, stayed in Wuhan during the Spring Festival for the past four decades. “I always stayed with my family, and we would have every meal together,” said Liu. “But this year, I haven’t had one meal with them.”
On the day of the Lunar New Year’s Eve, he and his wife bought some goods for their parents, brought them to their house and briefly chatted. As they were waiting for the elevator, Liu looked back and saw his father standing at the windowsill, watching them leave.
China is mobilizing medical resources nationwide to aid Wuhan and control the epidemic. Doctors, nurses and experts from across the nation have been selected to join the battle, and manufacturers have restarted their plants to produce medical consumables that have been running short in many places.
A national research team of 14 experts, headed by renowned respiratory scientist Zhong Nanshan, has been set up to help prevent and control the outbreak on Friday.
“This is going to be an unforgettable Spring Festival,” said Chen Ying, a writer. “Because I feel that at this moment, there are so many families that I do not know, in every corner of this city, praying for our home.”
“My New Year wish is simple,” said Liu Jie. “I hope the virus will soon be conquered and everyone in Wuhan and the whole nation would be safe and healthy.” – Xinhua