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Medics from Hainan, Jiangsu, Tianjin, Sichuan and Xinjiang take a selfie on Tuesday before their departure from Wuhan, the city hit hardest by the coronavirus outbreak. As the epidemic situation has eased, medical assistance teams in Hubei will leave in batches starting Tuesday. 3,787 medics in 49 medical teams embarked on their journey home. Photo: Cui Meng/GT
Overwhelming appreciation and respect has been paid to medical staff that came from across the country to Hubei and Wuhan and helped bring the COVID-19 epidemic under control with their hard work and sacrifice. This reflected an institutional strength in mobilizing national resources to deal with emergencies, analysts said.
"Thank you for risking your lives and fighting for us!" Many residents in Wuhan shouted from their windows as buses taking medical personnel, who came to aid the COVID-19 fight, drove past their houses. The similar scene was repeated in residential communities, on streets and at airports in Wuhan and Hubei as 41 medical teams assisting Wuhan started to head for their hometowns in different batches since Tuesday.
From January 24 to March 8, 42,600 people from 346 medical teams came to assist Wuhan and Hubei in the COVID-19 fight.
Thirty-two posters made by the Wuhan culture and tourism bureau with tailor-made slogans saying "thank you" to medical teams from 32 places were released on Wednesday.
Li Tian, a 43-year-old single mother who once was treated in a makeshift hospital in Wuhan, told the Global Times that she cried when she saw videos of medical teams departing Wuhan.
"I want to thank them for coming to Wuhan. It touched me so many times to see them wearing heavy protective outfits and goggles covered with vapor," Li told the Global Times.
Li said she hoped the medical teams could come back to Wuhan to enjoy Wuhan's famous cherry blossoms and taste reganmian, a local noodle dish, as they didn't have the chance during the epidemic.
Wuhan Tianhe International Airport, where many medics took chartered flights home, also prepared special boarding passes with words "The Spring is more lovable because of you, Hubei becomes more beautiful because of you," and "Our heroes are coming home and we are grateful for having you."
Jiao Yahui, deputy head of the medical policy and administration bureau under the National Health Commission (NHC), who saw medical teams off at the airport on Tuesday, told the Global Times in tears that "we can now tell these medics' families and friends that we send them back safe and sound."
Medical teams also received warm welcomes in their hometowns. At the Ji'nan Airport of East China's Shandong Province, two red firefighting trucks sprayed water from each side and let the just-landed plane slide across the "water gate" as a special greeting.
According to the Ji'nan Daily, the ceremony is a type of high-level etiquette, like guards of honor crossing their swords and letting distinguished guests walk below.
Xu Yao, a research fellow at the Human Rights Research Center of Nankai University in Tianjin, told the Global Times on Wednesday that the teams rushed to ease the severe shortage of medical resources when Wuhan and Hubei were hit hard by the disease. They helped with epidemic control and treated local patients, guaranteeing their life and health.
Meanwhile, the lockdown of Hubei stopped people from going elsewhere and decreased the transmission risk to other people, which was a great sacrifice for the whole country's prevention work, Xu said.
Such an aid system of "one provincial-level region supporting one city in Hubei" is a mature public governance mechanism in China, which saw success in the poverty alleviation work and the emergency aid after the deadly earthquake in Sichuan in 2008.
This is a mechanism with Chinese characteristics, which demonstrates the country's capability of managing the overall situation and mobilizing all resources to deal with emergencies and carry out key undertakings effectively, according to Xu.
Europe has become the new "epicenter" of the global COVID-19 outbreak with mounting infections, but it is difficult for European countries to copy such a mechanism, experts said.
Relatively free movement of people in Europe increases the spread of the virus in the continent. Most countries are now busy with domestic outbreaks and can hardly offer help to others, Xu said.
Xu also noted the EU can do little to help with the situation as its moves have always been hindered by nationalism or other political factors.