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Hungarian stays at his post to help in Chengdu

By HUANG ZHILING in Chengdu | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-03-25 09:19

Editor's note:In this new series, we share stories and experiences showing how expats are dealing with the novel coronavirus pneumonia outbreak.

 

David Kovacs

 

The mention of working at the office makes some people in Chengdu, Sichuan province, cringe as efforts continue to curtail the spread of novel coronavirus pneumonia.

But David Kovacs, a 30-year-old Hungarian, continues working at his office, starting at 9 am most workdays and sometimes heading home at midnight.

"I have lived in Chengdu for three years. As a staff member of a State-owned Chinese enterprise, I have the responsibility to stay at such a critical moment and be involved in epidemic intervention," he said.

Kovacs arrived in Chengdu in 2017 and has worked as head of the international cooperation department of the Chengdu Airport Economic Zone Investment Group.

When the outbreak started, he was on vacation. He and his colleagues curtailed their vacation, returning to work on Jan 26.

"We volunteered to join prevention and protection work. As residents of the city, we have to face this difficulty and overcome it together. That is the right thing to do," Kovacs said.

He has kept in touch with contacts in more than 15 countries to help source the right protective clothing and surgical masks for Chengdu.

"I have helped to find sources and reached out to my connections, from the United Kingdom to Hungary," he said.

Before working in Chengdu, Kovacs served as managing director of the nonprofit green initiative advisory group Greenwill. He also was secretary-general of the EuCham-European Chamber in Budapest, Hungary, where he was responsible for overall business management and performance.

"To source the right masks, I have learned from investment professionals and mask experts, and spent long hours learning about the qualifications and details of masks-which ones can and cannot protect us-knowing the standards," he said.

Because he speaks Hungarian, Chinese, English and German, Kovacs communicates easily with many foreign nationals and can help them as well.

Two Mexican tourists arrived in Chengdu when the outbreak began. They couldn't speak Chinese and learning about news and prevention measures was challenging, according to Kovacs.

"But together with our support, they managed to take care of everything and returned safely to Mexico. That was really heartwarming to realize we could make a positive impact in people's lives," he said.

Kovacs said he was impressed with the neighborhood committee staff in Chengdu who have paid house calls regularly to ask about health conditions of residents, monitor temperatures and arrange special personnel to disinfect public places.

"These measures make me feel safe here," he said.

His mastery of several languages enabled him to tell foreigners how the Chinese government and the people have managed to control the outbreak.

"I am confident to say China will win this battle and the rest of the world will follow its example," Kovacs said.

Staying at home is key to preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus, health professionals say. But staying cooped up can be stressful and depressing after a period of time, many people have discovered.

Thanks to Kovacs' efforts, Ferron Gray, founder of the Grae Matta Foundation in the United Kingdom, agreed to develop a free mental health program for people in Chengdu who have had limited contact outside their homes.

Because China is no longer the main battlefield of the pandemic, Kovacs has been dedicated to efforts outside the country.

Last Tuesday afternoon, he flew from Chengdu to Chaozhou in Guangdong province to make sure 30,000 nucleic acid test kits the Hungarian government purchased would be mailed to Hungary on the next day.

 

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