How to respond when life throws us curveballs is a frequently asked question. People in Guangdong's two largest cities have answered one such curveball with action in the past two weeks.
After reporting the first signs of a COVID-19 infection resurgence May 21, Shenzhen and Guangzhou heightened their vigilance, launching nucleic acid testing on a scale that the two cities had never seen before. Medical workers in the thousands were dispatched from air-conditioned hospital offices and well-equipped operating rooms to makeshift, often open-air and road-side testing sites at communities, in the thick of a subtropical summer heat wave that was later followed by sudden downpours.
Donning protective suits covering them so completely that they became indistinguishable even to their co-workers and family members, these medics worked against the clock, and often overtime, rain or shine, day and night.
For some of them, the unusual task came at an inopportune time as their younger kids demanded attention when dismissed from school for the celebration of the Children's Day and older ones needed support in their preparation for the National College Entrance Exam (NCEE).
A mission of this significance and priority, however, summoned up their nerve to take up the responsibilities, along with volunteers, community workers and other public servants.
Scattered around the two cities, they were thrust into the limelight when photos, videos and stories of them working against all odds went viral, touching millions of hearts.
"What you give is what you get." The old adage is very true here. Residents they serviced soon stood together with them and came to their help, bringing letters of gratitude and food and beverages, or simply plunging into the voluntary work.
Solidarity and hard work led to efficiency. In Shenzhen's Longgang District, 4.5 million nucleic tests were done within days while Luohu handled 3.32 million such tests. Yantian District, where the city's first cases of this COVID resurgence were found, had wrapped up its fourth population-wide nucleic testing before yesterday. In Guangzhou, all residents in seven of its 11 districts had gone through nucleic testing by yesterday, while the remaining four districts have started population-wide testing.
The heavy workload and the threats posed by the virus didn't deter people from keeping a tender heart and their sense of humor. While collecting nucleic samples for gaokao takers, medics from the Maternity & Child Health-care Hospital of Futian District had words written on their protective suits, which read: "Go embrace your opportunities. Don't worry about the COVID. Leave it to us to deal with it."
People in this land known for its openness and innovative spirit are also good at working smart and going high-tech. To improve their testing capabilities in the face of population-wide screening, the two cities managed to erect inflatable COVID-19 testing laboratories in their stadiums within hours. Each of these labs is capable of conducting 30,000 tests daily.
To avoid traffic jams between community sites and testing labs, Guangdong Second Provincial General Hospital employed drones to transport the samples they collected, cutting transportation time from 30 minutes to 10. Some community workers in Guangzhou also made use of drones to remind residents in areas under their jurisdiction of taking nucleic tests in time. Shenzhen medics use handheld personal digital assistant (PDA) scanning devices to improve efficiency.
Words pale in comparison to their deeds. Next time when the same old question pops up again, I have a long story to tell, as well as a source of strength, courage, warmth and wisdom to draw on.
(The author is a business editor with Shenzhen Daily.)