In the process of departing Shenyang Taoxian Airport, as I handed over my passport and flight ticket to receive my boarding pass, all I could feel was happiness and the excitement of heading back home to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Viewing the very busy airport with numerous airplanes and hundreds of people coming from various backgrounds, I was compelled to think about my experience in China.
It came to my realization that studying in China was and continues to be one of the best decisions of my life: it has given me the opportunity to make life-long friends, world-class teachers, credible education, and opportunities that I would not have been able to receive if I were in another part of the world. With this realization, I felt a tiny bit of sadness from leaving my second home even though the winter holiday was going to be a short one. Little did I know that it will take a long time until I can get back to my life in China.
Earlier in January, before I returned to Dar es Salaam, I had heard of an outbreak of a disease in some parts of China. During the early phases of the outbreak, we all thought and assumed it was something minor. Nevertheless, everyone I saw on the streets took some precautionary measures against the disease. After a few weeks of being in Dar es Salaam, I read that the disease was a viral infection and was given the name “novel coronavirus”. I had never heard of this virus, therefore, I immediately began my research to understand the symptoms of this disease and preventive methods that could be undertaken. As days went by, I kept track of the spread of the virus and contacted my friends, teachers and my āyís (Chinese word for “aunt”, here referred to the supervisor of dormitory) back in China. After having spent almost two years in China, I was sure that the Chinese government and the Chinese will succeed in fighting against this virus.
Soon, rumours about the extent to which the virus was spreading in China were being circulated in social media and many people were blaming China for the outbreak while some doubted the origin of the virus. Some people even asked me not to return to China for my studies and claimed that China is not a safe country in terms of the health of the general population. As I heard these comments, I only thought of how inhumane and inconsiderate some people are. It was so easy for them to generalise and criticise the efforts of those people who were actually fighting so hard to curb the spread of the virus, without actually living with and understanding the people of China. “People from China are very humble, warm, and welcoming. They would not harm their people as well as others, regardless of their race, culture or background. Yes, every country has its downsides and so does China, but that does not mean that we should blame them for the outbreak of a virus that seems to be completely natural in origin. That is what I replied to their comments. By this time, I realised that China would have two fights, one against the virus and the other against the baseless accusations.
Days went by and various provinces in China sent medical teams to the epicentre, Wuhan, to fight the virus. As I watched many documentations and videos on China’s fight against coronavirus, tears rolled down my eyes when I saw doctors and nurses working tirelessly to treat the patients, essential health workers cutting their hairs to maintain a clean environment for the patients, and doctors trying to resuscitate patients. A few of the medical teams that went to Wuhan were from my university. Along with the group photos of these teams departing Shenyang, I saw photos of family members and close friends bidding farewell to their beloved ones, not knowing when they would return back home. This was a proud moment for me as I aspire to be as hard working and committed as these health workers who have been on the frontline of this anti-coronavirus battle.
To curb the spread of the virus, many facilities and services were temporarily shutdown. One of these services was the education sector in which schools and universities were closed. Traditional, in-person learning switched to a solely online learning format, which was new to both students and teachers. I am one of the individuals who has been affected by this decision of the Chinese Government.
Moreover, many courses on coronavirus were uploaded online and were available to the public. This was essential for the public to be aware of the virus and the extent to which it can harm the human body. I opted to take one of these courses and learnt of the guidelines set by Chinese health officials to treat and report the coronavirus cases. As I viewed these guidelines, I saw that many editions were released over a short period of time. Chinese health workers made sure to document their experience with coronavirus patients and made it readily available for the whole world, which was a thoughtful and noble action.
Each edition reveals a new detail that may have not been previously mentioned, proving that these health workers were closely monitoring the coronavirus patients. Today, some countries are using these guidelines as their main weapon in their fight against the novel coronavirus and are gradually being able to control the spread of the virus.
After a few weeks, many Chinese provinces reopened and later in April, Wuhan reopened as well. Even at this time, Chinese health workers did not claim victory against the virus as it was too early to do so. By now, families were reuniting, preparations to resume work and production, and to reopen schools, universities and public areas were being done. Additionally, international flights to China resumed and China saw a rapid increase in the number of imported coronavirus cases.
According to the analysis done by many health experts, the rapid and swift action taken by the Chinese Government in containing the virus was the main reason why China was able to fight successfully against the virus. I, personally, believe that China is ready and prepared for any virus or fatality that comes on to them, given their experiences with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and their rapid infrastructural development within a short period of time. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which is the main mode of health treatment and is widely used in China, is one of the examples of Chinese inventions that were of benefit to the country itself.
Technological inventions such as the use of robots in quarantine facilities were also important in China’s fight against COVID-19 as it significantly reduced the contacts between confirmed or suspected patients and doctors or relevant health care workers. Like other countries, the epidemic affected the economy of China however, the government is determined to provide assistance and support to the businesses and people that have been affected significantly by COVID-19 and epidemic control measures. Amidst all the criticisms and blaming, China fought and continues to fight against the virus.
It has not stopped providing assistance to other countries in their fight against the coronavirus. One aspect that stands out in China’s fight against the virus is that the virus did not stop the Chinese officials from achieving their other goals set at the beginning of this year, such as poverty alleviation. I salute China and its people for fighting so hard against the virus, even though the fight is yet to be concluded. As I desperately await the lifting of the temporary ban on the entry of foreigners in China, I pray and hope that we could all learn and gain from China’s fight against COVID-19, and get better prepared for any future outbreaks.
(This article won the First Prize in the essay competition themed ‘My Chinese Anti-epidemic Story’ co-organized by China Cultural Centre in Tanzania, Tanzania-China Friendship Promotion Association and the China Alumni Association of Tanzania. The author is a Tanzanian undergraduate student who studies at China Medical University in Shenyang, Liaoning province, P.R. China.)