Wuhan in diplomats’ eyes: sacrifice, rebirth and strength

By Cao Siqi and Zhao Yusha in Wuhan, Published: 2020/11/25 22:10:40

It has been a year since Freddi Gaoseb, Commercial Counselor of the Embassy of Namibia in China, first came to Wuhan, capital of Central China's Hubei Province. The moment he set his foot in the city, he couldn't hold back from sharing his memories.

"On December 2019, I came to Wuhan to attend an academic conference. I had never thought that the city would be soon engulfed by the outbreak of COVID-19 epidemic and even locked down to prevent the virus from spreading," Freddi told the Global Times on Thursday.

But when the Global Times reporter asked whether he felt scared on coming to the city again, he replied without any hesitation: "Not at all. Wuhan is the safest place in the world."

On Friday, Gaoseb and diplomats from Asian and African countries including Zimbabwe, Senegal, Mongolia, South Korea and Cambodia visited a residential community, high-tech enterprises and an anti-epidemic exhibition in Wuhan, where they said they could feel the spirit of Chinese people in their united struggle against crisis and the power of Chinese technological advancement.

It was a same rainy day. It is a pleasant surprise to see the city's successful revival in such a short time, Gaoseb said

"There seems to be no difference in terms of the vibrant and busy city lifestyle I have observed. The city is in full swing of full recovery. Wuhan's dark days are over. The world is ready to re-engage Wuhan and the city is ready to embrace the world," he exclaimed.

Foreign diplomats visit Hubei Media Group on Friday. Photo: Cao Siqi/GT

During the lockdown period, Namibia students contacted him to ask whether they should go back to their home country. He advised them to stay and follow the local government's guidelines. He said the students told him the school had provided them with basic living supplies such as food, masks and disinfectant.

Visit to Donghu Xincheng residential community, a critical front in the battle against the COVID-19 epidemic, reaffirmed his message to the students.

Since February 21, there have been no new COVID-19 cases in the community and the number of confirmed cases has dropped from 32 to 0, granting Donghu Xincheng the status "epidemic free."

In the face of the COVID-19 epidemic, the community's Party Committee played a central role in regional coordination. The committee quickly set up a joint prevention and control network, organized four medical staff at community health service stations to take urgent treatment measures, and arranged property management personnel to disinfect 96 elevators and public places every day.

Meanwhile, the committee also organized 33 Party members to form a security team to provide door-to-door food and vegetable delivery services for the elderly, widowed, solitary and disabled residents.

"I was shocked by how the community stood together and assisted each other during the lockdown," Gaoseb said, noting that he was touched by a story of the 80-year-old woman who hanged the Five-Starred Red Flag on her window and encouraged her fellow residents to adhere to the orders of the authorities.

Gaoseb said he learned how companies, supermarkets and individuals contributed to the food bank from which food was distributed to the community, a valuable lesson for the world in fighting COVID-19.

Lim Sophea, second secretary of Cambodia Embassy to China, shared with the Global Times that he was very emotional when he learned that Chinese people from all walks of life went to help Wuhan during the lockdown.

While Wuhan was considered as a very dangerous city, people who bravely walked into the city to lend their hands are the true heroes, Lim said.

"The prompt response of the government and public cooperation in Wuhan greatly contributed to the successful control of the epidemic. I am very pleased to see the recovery of Wuhan today," he said.

What impressed Gaoseb the most were the volunteers who were also Party members. "It tells me that the Chinese government's policy can be implemented from top to down effectively. I could feel that the local residents are confident and trust in the Party and the government," he said.

"Nowadays, I can say that Wuhan is alive and safet. Everything is going better to best. Activities are now picking up steam and the scenic centers are reopened. Markets and business areas are crowded and that is good news," Eugene Amakoe, economic counselor from the Embassy of the Republic of Togo to China, told the Global Times.

In Gaoseb's eyes, fighting together with cooperation and united spirits is not something that the government orders Chinese people to do, but is their nature. That is probably the secret why the city could be reborn and move forward with pain and suffering, as well as hope.

People visit the exhibition on COVID-19 in Wuhan. Photo: Zhao Yusha/GT
Exhibition shows Wuhan’s resilience in darkest days

Few people were out on the streets for the cold and rainy weather in Wuhan on Saturday, but there was hustle and bustle in one venue.

A 1,445-meter exhibition center was filled with 6,000 items including photos, videos, physical exhibitions, large-scale scenes, and interactive projects telling touching stories of how Wuhan people fought the coronavirus.

Since the exhibition opened on October 16, it has welcomed people all over the country to see how this "heroic city" beat the virus with "bravery, solidarity, determination and cooperation."

"We now have 3,000 visitors per day on average," said an employee of the exhibition center.

Jin Jiannan, a local architect, brought his six-year-old son to the exhibition on Saturday. "I brought my son here for the first time. I want him to remember what we have been through," said Jin.

He said that as a Wuhan local, before watching this exhibition, he only felt the anxiety and inconvenience during the city-wide lockdown. "Now I have much deeper sympathy for those front line medical workers and how assistance from all over China, even all over the world, helped Wuhan survive difficult times."

Cheng Xing, a student from China University of Geosciences, who originally is from Changchun, Northeast China's Jilin Province, told the Global Times that "I have watched some photos and videos on the exhibition on news before, but when those items are placed in front of me, I feel differently. I feel the power of the people, and the city."

Chen said as he sees many Western countries facing the onslaught of the pandemic, he feels the efficiency and the power of Chinese government.

The fight over the virus was imprinted on the exhibition halls, and the impact of the pandemic lingers and encourages people to be more careful in their daily lives.

Jin said he will still avoid crowded places and asked his son to do the same. "For us Wuhan people, we pay extra attention to hygiene details… because we went through the pain."

A woman and her son watch light show in Wuhan on September 30. Photo: Xinhua
Wuhan moves forward with cautiousness, hope

Wearing masks and staying at home more are habits that residents in Wuhan have cultivated during the past year. Carrying memories of pain, discrimination and slander caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, the city has struggled to heal itself and move forward with cautiousness and hope.

It is the first time that I came to Wuhan since the city reported the first case of COVID-19 late last year. Here, mask-wearing and disinfectant can be seen everywhere indoors or outdoors, despite the fact that China has basically contained the virus.

Taxi drivers told me they would disinfect their cars every day, wear masks all the time in service and some of them even have protective suits at trunk.

Food markets in Wuhan are still implementing strict anti-epidemic measures which require visitors to show their health code, travel history and body temperature. Meanwhile, students are told to stay at schools if there is no urgent situation.

At a residential community, I saw a group of elderly people playing mahjong with joy, but all of them wore masks.

A Belgian named Davis who owns a popular bar admitted that he still lost 15 percent of customers till now as local residents prefer to stay at home rather than going outside and gathering together.

Local restaurants are cautious as they continue to providing customers with disposable paper bowls.

"Wuhan people don't eat bats," said local residents rejecting the accusation the virus was caused by people who ate wild animals.

"I could still recall all those days when I was discriminated and defamed but I learned to let it go and move forward," a local resident who had contracted the virus told the Global Times.

Although the city is still facing problems of dampened economy and closed business, all I can feel is that people here had never given up.

We will always stay with our hometown, they say.