Creative slogans shed light on China's grassroots-level fight against virus

Shi Hua
Photos of countryside banners carrying simple and straightforward messages for villagers on how to prevent the coronavirus spreading go viral on social media.
Shi Hua

Words matter! Photos of countryside banners carrying colloquial precautionary measures in response to the novel coronavirus-related pneumonia outbreak have gone viral on social media.

In simple, straightforward language, the banners and slogans call on villagers to stay put, avoid going out for parties and gatherings, wear masks, report to the authorities if they have a fever or return from coronavirus-hit regions, and warn against eating game.

“Whoever has a fever and yet did not report to the authorities are all enemies hidden amidst the masses” (发烧不说的人,都是潜伏在人民群众中的阶级敌人), “Partygoers are shameless, mahjong players are desperados” (出来聚会的是无耻之辈,一起打麻将的是亡命之徒), “Those who returned home from Hubei and yet did not report to the authorities are time bombs” (湖北回来不报告的人都是定时炸弹), “Bite a bit of game food today, meet in the netherworld tomorrow” (今天沾一口野味,明天地府相会), “Mask or respirator, you have to ponder and choose one out of the two” (口罩还是呼吸机,您老看着二选一) …

These candid snapshots shed light on China’s massive grassroots-level control measures in response to the outbreak as Zhong Nanshan, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and an expert in respiratory diseases, pointed out that the most effective way to control the epidemic is early identification and early quarantine of those infected.

Wuhan, epicenter of the coronavirus, is a megacity with one of China’s biggest influxes of people. On the night of January 26, Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang said more than 5 million people left the Hubei capital before the lockdown. 

The question arises as to where all these 5 million people have gone.

Most are migrant workers and professionals who return home each year during the chunyun, the Chinese New Year travel rush, the world’s largest annual exodus of the migrant population who return home for the most important family reunion and festival celebrations.

Data collected by Baidu Migration Interactive and reported by China Business News shows that around 60-70 percent of people departing Wuhan from January 10 to 22 went to other regions in Hubei Province, while the rest went to neighboring provinces and other parts of the country rest of the countries.

That means at least 2 or 3 million of the 5 million have returned home to rural areas. Compared with cities, rural areas lack adequate medical facilities and professional expertise.

In order to urge villagers to protect themselves, publicity staff at China’s grassroots-level governments have translated the central government’s call into actionable measures.

Slogans and banners are posted in every village and recordings are broadcast from vehicles. Volunteers visit every household to tell villagers to take control measures.

Hundreds of medical teams, with thousands of doctors and nurses from cities across the country, are rushing to Wuhan. Two hospitals are under construction in the city to be dedicated to treating this single virus. Donations are pouring in. Chinese and foreign companies emptied their stocks, procured worldwide, leaving no stone unturned in the search for eye protection goggles, gloves, masks and gowns to be donated to hospitals in need. Express companies provide free and accelerated delivery services. Tollbooths give the green light to deliveries without charge.

I am firmly confident that with the support of people from all around the country and beyond, China can surely get through the difficulties.

(Shi Hua is a Shanghai-based freelance writer and translator.)

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