COVID-19: Expat doctor in China about volunteering during the outbreak

  • couple of Mauritian doctors in Wenzhou
    Sumayyah Hosany
Published 2020-03-17 10:41

As China officially announced that the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak has been reached, the situation is slowly getting back to normal. Sumayyah Hosany, a Mauritian expat living in Wenzhou with her husband Hamad Abdul Zahir from Pakistan, talks to about her feelings about the pandemic. Both are doctors who have been volunteering in the Ouhai district in Wenzhou.

Since when have you lived in Wenzhou? 

I've been living in Wenzhou for 12 years now.

What are the latest updates about the COVID-19 epidemic in China? How do you feel about this?

As of Thursday (March 12th 2020), China officially announced that the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak had already been reached. All cities in the Hubei province, excluding Wuhan, have had no new confirmed cases over the last week. In provinces outside Hubei, 7 new cases have been confirmed, 6 of which came from abroad. Other cities in China have not registered a single new case since the beginning of March, some even before that. Personally, I can’t put in words how relieved I feel. It was a tough two months; Wenzhou was the 2nd most-affected city during this outbreak. We have seen numbers of new infected cases doubling overnight, a complete lockdown. People could only go out every other day to buy groceries - even the going out was closely monitored with temperature checks, and when all these were lifted, it really felt like we accomplished something extraordinary.

What is the situation in your home country? Are you worried? 

I’ve been following the situation closely in Mauritius. I’m grateful they have no cases, but I believe that they are letting panic get the best of themselves. I have been through what they are going through right now. In the beginning, when the fear settled, COVID-19 was really causing a lot of deaths, and we realised that if we don’t fight it together, we stand no chance. Then the government started really drastic measures that we saw today improved the situation considerably. Also the people of China showed unity, strength and followed the instructions given by the local government. Fighting here doesn’t only mean fighting the disease - it is fighting this 'infodemic', it is fighting the panic, and fighting the discrimination against Asians. We really need to step up against the fear mongers. 

I am, of course, worried about Mauritius as my whole family is there. I believe that drastic measures need to be taken to prevent any import of cases to the island, and the people also need to play their part. I have faith that, even though we are a small nation, we will be able to overcome this as long as we do it together.

Can you talk to us about your involvement in handling the crisis in Wenzhou?

During the lockdown, my husband and I worked as volunteers for the Ouhai district (Wenzhou) - that is where the hospital we work for is located. We were volunteering at toll gates to control and monitor the people entering and exiting Wenzhou. We did temperature checks, asked the people's travel history, checked relevant identification cards, etc. After the epidemic, we went back to work.

How are you feeling regarding the outbreak around the world? 

At the beginning, we that hoped closing off everything and isolating China would actually prevent it from spreading. I guess it was wishful thinking. I have a lot of friends all around the world. I receive messages daily from Europe and Mauritius of friends and relatives who want to understand this virus better and know how to better protect their family. I would like to say it again that I believe in the drastic measures taken by China. I personally feel it is the only way we are going to get through this with the least number of death, till a vaccine is available or medicines can actually relieve the symptoms of COVID-19.

How are you keeping in touch with your family back home? Is it hard to be away from your family in these times?

I stay in touch with everyone at home via social media platforms. It is really hard to be far away, especially since here we are slowly going back to normal here in China and there the threat is now more real than ever. It’s scary that there is nothing I can actually do from here except giving them the right information and the right tools to fight this. What’s scarier for me is with all borders closing, each country putting their own travel restrictions and no plane flying between Mauritius and China. God knows how long before I can actually go home again.

What would be your recommendations to expats around the world?

  • I think we should take all the necessary precautions as the WHO specified. 
  • We should stop panicking and stockpiling. Instead, we should keep ourselves updated with the situation around us. 
  • We should know where the hotspots are, where the clusters are, and we should totally avoid them. The best thing we can do for ourselves and our family is to stay indoors. 
  • We should avoid sharing information that doesn't have the proper source. 
  • We should stop listening to people without relevant qualifications.
  • We should avoid fear mongers, and we should not partake in fear-mongering. 
  • There so many myths of COVID-19, we should stay away from those. Stick to facts.