Memorable gatherings despite staying put for Spring Festival
SHENYANG－Ma Huichang spent this year's Spring Festival with other staff and 21 quarantined people at an isolation site for COVID-19 prevention, leaving his wife at home in the same city. But he felt his choice was worth it.
Jan 11 was the eve of the Spring Festival and also the 53rd day of Ma's work at the quarantine venue. Ma, a government official in Tiexi district, Shenyang city in Northeast China's Liaoning province, volunteered to join the epidemic prevention work in the district in December after a local COVID-19 outbreak hit the city.
Worried that the isolated people might suffer emotionally on Lunar New Year's eve, when family members gather and have dinner together as part of celebrations, Ma, head of the isolation site, stayed up until 2 am the next morning.
"Everyone was very cooperative. My sincere thanks to them," Ma said. In order to make everyone happy, the staff prepared snacks and a dinner, including dumplings, for the people under quarantine.
"We are one family as we spend this Spring Festival," Ma said. Yet he could not reunite with his wife and son this year as before. Ma is a native of Songyuan city in neighboring Jilin province.
"My wife spent the Spring Festival at home in Shenyang, and my son, who studies in Beijing, did not return. My parents back home were accompanied by my brothers and sisters," Ma said. He had a virtual chat with his parents, who supported his work.
On Feb 12, Ma received a notice that more than 20 people who had just entered the country would be transferred to the isolation site.
China has encouraged people to stay where they are during the Spring Festival as part of epidemic prevention measures. Many from different walks of life, including students and couriers, stayed put during the festival.
Cao Pengjun, a junior from Central China's Henan province, who studies at Northeastern University in Shenyang, echoed the "stay-local" drive and spent the festival on the campus.
"Delicious!" Cao said after enjoying a New Year's Eve dinner with hundreds of others who stayed put. The university rearranged dormitories for students who stayed back. Cao had three new roommates and did not feel lonely.
"As many people stay put, it is still lively and I feel at home," said Cao, whose parents also stayed in Beijing for the festival.
According to a university official, in previous years, dozens of students spent the Spring Festival in the university. But this year, more than 700 students stayed back, and the university prepared a free buffet as usual, with festive decorations in the dining hall.
Deliverymen are especially busy this Spring Festival, as people who could not return home purchase festival goods online for parents or make special purchases for themselves.
At a station of food delivery platform Meituan in Shenyang, 32 riders are on duty during the festival. Twenty of them are from other places. The station prepared a dinner of takeaway dishes for all staff on duty one day before New Year's eve when many shops close, according to Ren Kang, who was in charge of the delivery station.
During the festival, community workers in the city helped the elderly who live alone. Guo Donghui, a 78-year-old man in Shenhe district, Shenyang, spent the festival with neighbors in the community.
"My daughter is in Shanghai and did not return in response to the 'stay-local' drive. I miss her a bit, but I also had a good festival," Guo said, expressing his gratitude to community workers who helped him buy commodities, visited him and brought red scrolls ahead of the festival.
He invited three old friends in the community to his home for a gathering on Feb 12. "If it were not for epidemic prevention, I would have invited more."
When his daughter greeted him on video during the festival, Guo reassured her that all items she had purchased for him were received and that he lacked nothing for the festival.