Dedicated drivers help people reach isolation areas

February 14, 2020 |

A call from the Putuo District Disease Control and Prevention Center sparked a ripple of activity at the Putuo District Urban Management and Law Enforcement Bureau on January 27, the third day of the Chinese Lunar New Year.

In the call, the center asked for the bureau's assistance with the transfer of people from key infection areas of the new coronavirus to two isolation points in the district.

Wang Shaowei, 47, an official with the bureau, was the first to take the assignment. A team of three was established quickly.

Their job is driving people from infection areas — including Hubei Province and other cities with large numbers of coronavirus patients — who arrive in Shanghai to two hotels which are designated isolation points in Putuo.

Soon, the team expanded to include five members. They have transferred more than 100 people from 10 subdistricts to isolation points.

Among the transferred people, one has been confirmed as an infected case, and two are suspected cases.

"I am fully aware that this is a very dangerous job, but I must rush to the front line at such a key moment," Wang told Shanghai Daily.

Wang works 16 to 18 hours daily, skips meals often, and sleeps at a hotel near the isolated spots. On call 24-hours, he has returned home to Minhang District only twice since January 27.

"I keep the windows open when driving, and it is cold when the wind blows into the vehicle. My protection glasses are full of vapor, making it difficult to see the road. I am nervous during these trips due to exposure risk, and many people in the vehicles are worried and resist being isolated."

To prevent cross infection, transfer vehicles can take only one or two people at a time, compelling Wang and his colleagues to work day and night.

Wang can make more than 20 trips in a single day, and on many occasions he needs to wait until neighborhood officials can persuade people to be transferred to isolation. Sometimes this can take up to one hour.

"It is natural that people refuse to go to isolation areas due to fear," Wang told Shanghai Daily. "I explain to them the necessity of being isolated and tell them they will live at separate rooms and get three meals daily with thorough disinfection measures and medical guarantee. This eases their concerns and calms them down."

"The work is exhausting both physically and psychologically," he said. "I need to take people's emotions into account and use different methods to persuade them to go to isolation."

"However, I never regret my decision and I've also learned a lot from the job," he added. "We serve as a bridge between communities and isolation spots."

It takes Wang more than 20 minutes to remove his protective outfit each time.

"Protection glasses, two layers of gloves, shoe covers, mask, and clothing, and I must be very careful to avoid contamination during removal," he said.

"Wearing the clothing, I must move gently and I need to take isolated people away as quickly as possible to avoid panic among other residents," he said.

Wang's daughter will sit for the college entrance examination this June, and now is the final stage of her preparations. Wang said he feels sorry to be away from his family, but his daughter understands and respects his choice.

"Make good preparations and listen to your mom's words," he said in a message to his daughter.

Zhu Zhenhua, another member of the team, was a little hesitant when learning about the task. His father suffers from lung cancer and the potential infection hazard made him think twice.

Quickly though, he asked his wife, a community worker, to look after his father.

"Don't tell him what I am doing," Zhu told his wife.

"I wanted to do something to contribute to the early fight against the epidemic," he said.

Officials with the Putuo District Urban Management and Law Enforcement Bureau also conduct other tasks such as sending medical workers to the Huaqiao toll station on the G2 highway and temperature screenings at the entrances of residential complexes.