Fri, 14 Aug 2020

HAIKOU, July 14 (Xinhua) -- When Chinese public health expert Wang Dan finally had a chance to meet her overseas schoolmate after 15 years, there was no beer, no party, or even a handshake. Their chanced encounter only had a brief exchange of greetings before returning to the COVID-19 battlefront.

"We only had 10 minutes to greet each other, wearing masks and standing a meter apart," said 49-year-old Wang, recalling her meeting with her old friend in Bangladesh.

Wang, vice director of Hainan Center for Disease Control and Prevention, is one of the 10 medical experts sent by the Chinese government to help Bangladesh fight COVID-19.

During the 14-day stay in June, Wang assisted local epidemic prevention and control efforts in Bangladesh. Wang's visit had a fortunate stroke of serendipity as she could meet Asfia Azim, her best friend from Heidelberg University. Azim is currently a public health expert in Bangladesh.

"I knew Azim had been serving in the COVID-19 battle before departing for Bangladesh, and I had been concerned about her," said Wang.

During a visit to a local hospital on June 13, Wang received an unexpected phone call from Azim. "We have suffered a lot due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, and you have arrived at the right time!" Azim said over the phone.

Due to tight schedules, the two had to scrimp on their time for recalling the good old days spent together. During one phone call, they burst into tears for hardly having the time to see each other.

From June 8 to 22, the Chinese medical experts visited 11 medical and health institutions, held 11 training programs and organized six group consultations.

One of Wang's primary objective was sharing China's effective virus-control measures, including its focus on epidemiological investigations and conducting tests to break the chains of transmission.

Due to insufficient resources, close contacts of COVID-19 cases in Bangladesh had to be isolated at home. Wang, however, proposed centralized management for all close contacts to reduce the risks of cross-infection.

In the Institute of Public Health (IPH), which conducts virus testing, the medical team recommended measures to minimize infection risks, including setting up dedicated sampling sites and arranging work shifts to ramp up testing capacity.

The suggestions came after the facility lost two staff members to COVID-19 and several others were infected. "Upon leaving, we were approached by an IPH worker, who said our valuable suggestions helped to reduce cross-infection risks among lab workers," Wang said.

During interviews with local media, the Chinese medical experts tried to raise awareness among the locals in Bangladesh. They offered safety advice, such as wearing masks and maintaining social distancing in public places.

"The prevention measures you mentioned on TV were very practical. My entire family watched it, and my dad even told our relatives and friends to stay tuned," Azim told Wang during a phone call.

"You have become a celebrity in my country," Azim told Wang. "Thanks to the Chinese government for sending the medical expert team to Bangladesh."

As of May 31, China had sent 29 medical expert teams to 27 countries and offered assistance to 150 countries and four international organizations, according to a white paper issued by the Chinese government titled "Fighting COVID-19: China in Action."

Wang said though they barely had time to meet each other, she was deeply touched by Azim's daily emails reminding her to take care.

Finally, on June 20, two days before the medical team's return to China, Azim waited more than an hour at Wang's hotel, and the pals seized 10 minutes to bid farewell.

"Coronavirus may keep us away, but it can not cut off the friendship between Azim and me, or that between the Chinese and Bangladeshi people," Wang said.

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