Intercultural Couple on Front Line of Anti-Virus Battle

 February 11, 2020

HANGZHOU, February 11 (Xinhua) — With everyone wearing goggles and protective masks at a highway exit checkpoint, two different faces could hardly be recognized among a group of anti-epidemic volunteers working side by side with Chinese police, doctors and civil servants.

Pakistani orthopedist Abdul Zahir Hamad and his wife Hosany Sumayyah, a surgeon from Mauritius, were busy taking the body temperature of passing drivers and passengers. The intercultural couple have lived in China for about a decade and speak fluent Chinese.

"Where have you been lately?"

"Did you come into contact with anyone from Wuhan or other places in Hubei Province in the past two weeks?"

They questioned passersby carefully and patiently, again and again.

Sumayyah, the 31-year-old wife, came to China in 2008 and gained her master's degree of clinical medicine at Wenzhou Medical University in coastal Zhejiang Province, while the husband, 35, came to the Wenzhou Panhealth Medical Center, where Sumayyah worked, after graduation from Zhengzhou University in central China.

Wenzhou is a commercial hub with 180,000 people working and studying in Wuhan, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak. The city is the worst-affected across the country besides those in the hardest-hit Hubei Province, with 474 confirmed cases of infection reported by Monday.

When their hospital recruited volunteers in a chat group on WeChat, without any hesitation, the couple mobilized.

"We must do something," said the couple, who received higher education and fell in love with each other in China. "China is our second home."

Soon they were assigned to the checkpoint at one of the only two highway exits left in Wenzhou, where most had been locked down to curb the spread of the virus.

Each day, the couple work four to five hours a day screening thousands of cars to check whether people entering the city have a fever or not. They have to take shifts manning the checkpoint besides routine work in the hospital.

Anyone with a body temperature exceeding 37.3 degrees Celcius who shows noticeable flu symptoms will be taken straight to the hospital, Hamad said. "We have to make sure that they won't have more contact with others."

The couple haven't worried about getting infected, but their far-off families were cautious and anxious. Hamad's relatives and friends in Pakistan were alarmed by reports on social media about the epidemic outbreak in China and urged him to return home.

"They want us to go back, because of all they saw on social media and the way the news was put," Sumayyah said. "Unreliable sources and fake news."

The brave man didn't hold back. Instead, he told them the real situation on his Facebook posts, such as the mortality rate, the number of new infected cases every day and what the Chinese government has been doing in the anti-virus battle.

"We feel that it's our responsibility to not only tell our parents, but also create awareness in our circle of friends to make them understand what is actually the situation here," Hamad said.

His wife has also been posting short videos showing information from reliable sources where people can get the straight facts.

"It was received very well. I think they understood that the situation is not as bad as what the media says," said Sumayyah, who recently replaced her old social media profile picture with a photo of herself wearing protective clothing as a medical volunteer.

She also sent popular science videos and posters about the novel coronavirus on WeChat to netizens outside of China and tells them how to protect themselves.

"We hope the epidemic ends soon and people can get back to their normal lives," she said.


(Source: Xinhua)


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