Grass-roots efforts in rural areas help control epidemic

By Li Lei Source:Global Times Published: 2020/1/30 19:28:40

A Miaoxi village official from Northwest China's Shaanxi Province sprays disinfectants on the road and buildings. Photo: Li Lei/GT

"I cannot feel the cheerful atmosphere of the Spring Festival this year," my father complained on the first day I came back home. He was not alone. However, he still put on his face mask and voluntarily guarded our village together with other village officials.

Villagers in Miaoxi village of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province were busy preparing for the festival until three people were confirmed as novel coronavirus positive in the province on January 23, the day before Spring Festival Eve.

Now the village is silent since all forms of gatherings and activities for the Spring Festival are cancelled.

On the evening of January 25, a public announcement loudspeaker started repeating tips to prevent the epidemic, calling for villagers, especially those who came back from Hubei Province, to stay indoors.

On Sunday, Li Bin, vice head of China's National Health Commission, called for strengthened novel coronavirus prevention work at villages during a press conference. Villages should raise health awareness and their ability to prevent disease, and strengthen scientific education on epidemic prevention and control.

Li Bailin, an official of the village said all the grassroots officials have been called back to their posts on the evening of January 25, the first day of the Spring Festival and when the province launched its top-level public health emergency response to the epidemic.

Checkpoints were soon established that evening in the main road of each village to stop any entry from people and vehicles from outside as the district government required, Li said. 

Three officials work three shifts a day to check body temperatures of those who enter the village and remind villagers to wear face masks when outside. A police vehicle also patrols along the road every 10 minutes to check non-local vehicles and supervise checkpoints.

On the morning of January 26, a villager sprayed disinfectant solution on the road and surrounding buildings. 

I assumed it might be difficult to persuade villagers to wear face masks or cancel family gatherings during the Spring Festival. It is perhaps even more difficult to persuade older ones, as some of them may lack adequate scientific knowledge and instead rigidly follow traditional customs.

To my surprise, my grandparents called our relatives one by one to cancel their gatherings, put on face masks and told us to stay indoors. In the evening, only a couple of villagers could be seen outside, and all wore face masks. Chatting together in the community after dinner is a daily routine of my village, which was changed for the first time because of the epidemic.

"We did our work smoothly and the villagers are cooperative," Li said. He attributes the result to the government's publicity on epidemic prevention and the villagers' growing scientific knowledge.

Before the Spring Festival, three villagers came back to Miaoxi village from Hubei Province. The village government shared the information to all the villagers in their WeChat chatting group without mentioning the three villagers' personal information just to alert people to stay indoors and avoid gatherings.

"Those who came back from Hubei are willing to adopt home isolation, and we put meals in front of their doors, and they picked them up after we left to avoid contact," Li said.

They also check the three villagers' body temperatures on daily basis.

"Without an oath-taking ceremony, or a notice making them choose their posts over their families in the Spring Festival, without uniforms nor protection suits, and only a faces mask, village officials are willing to devote for epidemic control," said a poem sent by a villager in the WeChat group calling people to unite and respect grass-roots officials.

An older woman I've known since childhood told me she is certainly afraid of the virus, but she said she believes these hard times will pass and the epidemic will be curbed; she said the efforts of government and medical staffs will pay off.

Posted in: IN-DEPTH

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