Memorable gatherings despite staying put

2021-02-20 12:05:37

Cao Pengjun (second right), a junior at Northeastern University in Shenyang, Liaoning province, celebrates Lunar New Year with three temporary roommates in the dormitory. WANG YING/XINHUA 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.