Volunteers bring cheer to quarantined foreigners

Yang Meiping
With encouraging words and thoughtful gifts, local good Samaritans are helping ease the burden of medical isolation for expats at designated hotels.
Yang Meiping
Subtitles by Wang Xinzhou and Andy Boreham.

“My dear friend,

The inconvenience for the time being;

It is for the health of you, of me, and of everybody.

So, thank you for everything!

Quarantine against virus is no isolation of warm hearts.

We are right here with you,

Because we know, warm hearts WARM hearts.”

So reads the English text on a letter delivered to foreigners quarantined at designated hotels in Shanghai on Sunday. The letter, which is also written in Chinese, Korean and Japanese, is from Shanghai People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (SPAFFC) and the Pudong New Area New Social Stratum Association.

Along with the letter were some gifts, including fruit, a panda doll and some snacks for those under confinement. There were also carnations for women under quarantine, as Sunday marked International Women’s Day.

Four members of the Shanghai New Social Strata Association – Chen Haibo, Zhu Jiangliu, Tao Xiaotao and Dong Wei – spent Saturday visiting eight supermarkets and several other shops to prepare these items, which they paid for by themselves.

Volunteers bring cheer to quarantined foreigners
Ti Gong

A letter and gifts given to foreigners quarantined at designated places in Shanghai

“More and more foreigners are entering China via the Pudong and Hongqiao airports these days,” said Chen, vice chairman of the Shanghai New Social Strata Association. “But in light of the coronavirus epidemic in other countries, our government has taken new measures to prevent the spread of imported infections. This may cause inconvenience for those in quarantine.”

According to the latest measures taken by Shanghai to contain the virus, all people who have lived or traveled in seriously affected countries such as South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan in the 14 days prior to their arrival must undergo 14-day quarantine at home or in designated places, such as hotels, for medical observation.

Those without fixed residences, or whose residences cannot provide a quarantine area, have to be quarantined at designated hotels, where medical and hotel staff serve their basic needs and monitor their health conditions, including their temperatures and possible symptoms of infection.

“We contacted SPAFFC to see what we can do for them and eventually decided to give some supplies, such as coffee and tea, so they can have some comfort and feel the warmth of the city of Shanghai,” Chen added.

He said the local government has done the biggest part by providing accommodation and other basic needs and they just want to make some small contributions.

Zhu, supervisor of the organization, said some of the foreigners are also new Shanghai residents like her.

“I came to Shanghai over 10 years ago and have settled down in the city, which has become my home,” she said. “There are more than 200,000 foreigners living here. They are also Shanghai residents and have made contributions to the economic and social development of the city. As Dr Zhang Wenhong (director of the coronavirus treatment group in Shanghai) said, when people are quarantined, they are also making a contribution to Shanghai, to make the city a safer place for all of us.”

Volunteers bring cheer to quarantined foreigners
Ti Gong

Zhang Xiaosong (fourth from left), executive vice president of SPAFFC, Jing Ying (second right), vice president of SPAFFC, the consuls general of Italy and South Korea, and members of the Shanghai New Social Strata Association visit a hotel designated for quarantine in Changning District with a letter and gifts.

Quarantine life

Officials from SPAFFC and the consuls general of some countries, including South Korea, Italy and Iran, also visited some designated hotels to extend their greetings to quarantined expats.

At one hotel in Changning District, a staffer told local and foreign officials that South Koreans and Italians there were all cooperative and understanding of the quarantine measures.

Like quarantined Chinese, each of the expats lives in a single room, but children 14 years old or younger can stay with a parent.

They are supplied with all their basic needs and their garbage is collected at their door by staff.

Volunteers bring cheer to quarantined foreigners
Ti Gong

Officials in Changning District discuss their quarantine work with SPAFFC officials and good Samaritans.

At a hotel in the Pudong New Area, there were interpreters and interpreting machines assisting quarantine staff with communication.

“We call them every day to hear about their needs and also provide psychological counseling if necessary,” said staffer Yang Wenhong. “We have also invited qualified companies to prepare halal food for Iranians and kimchi for South Koreans.”

Other individualized needs were also met.

One South Korean girl loves painting, and staff bought paintbrushes, drawing boards and paints for her, said Yang.

“To ease their moods, we also deliver each of them a card every day, notifying them of their remaining days under quarantine,” he said.

The hotels said quarantined people can ask staff for help with purchasing extra supplies or make online purchase by themselves. They can receive parcels, though all of them must be dropped in the lobby and delivered to the recipients by staff.

“We handle more than 300 parcels every day,” said a staffer at another hotel in Pudong.

Volunteers bring cheer to quarantined foreigners
Ti Gong

Waste from a quarantine hotel is handled by professional staff.

According to staff at the hotels, foreigners who arrive in Shanghai but have fixed residences in other cities are being picked away by authorities in those cities, or by their employers, to undergo quarantine there.

Along with Shanghai’s 16 districts, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces have also set up quarantine zones at the airports in Shanghai to pick up passengers.

The local consuls general called some of these quarantined expats, asking them about their conditions and urging them to understand the measures and cooperate with quarantine staff.

Volunteers bring cheer to quarantined foreigners
Ti Gong

Thankful messages

Some of the expats have sent out messages to thank the officials and good Samaritans for their warm greetings.

“I would like to extend my thanks to the Shanghai government and the South Korean consulate in Shanghai for their continuous care,” one South Korean at a Pudong hotel wrote. “Although life under quarantine is a little bit depressing, I’m persisting as it’s for the health of myself and other people. I believe when spring comes and life returns to normal, we will cherish our life more and the quarantine days will become our precious memories.”

An Italian mother shared photos she and her children took with the gifts to show their gratitude.

Another South Korean at a Changning hotel wrote: “The greetings from the Shanghai People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries at this special time make us expats at the designated quarantine places feel the inclusiveness of Shanghai.”

“The children really like the panda dolls and the ladies do love the flowers, while the Shanghai specialties are also impressive,” the message adds. “As a stopover passenger from South Korea, I fully understand the positive effect of the strict measures Shanghai has taken to prevent spread of the epidemic. The virus is ruthless, but Shanghai is affectionate. Let’s meet in the spring blossoms!”

Volunteers bring cheer to quarantined foreigners
Ti Gong

Gifts provided by Shanghai New Social Strata Association are delivered to a hotel designed for quarantine in the Pudong New Area.

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