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Hangzhou officials offer foreigners a helping hand

By Ma Zhenhuan in Hangzhou | China Daily | Updated: 2020-07-14 09:06

The COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei province, in January interfered with the plans of many people, including Chamfort Alain Chrysler, a Gabonese doctoral student from Central China Normal University in Wuhan, who was enjoying his winter break on a trip to Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.

Wuhan's lockdown on Jan 23 prevented Chrysler's return to school, and his situation was made even worse when his money began to run out. The student came up with the idea of seeking shelter with a friend in Hangzhou, but was rejected.

When night fell, Chrysler found himself in a desperate situation and was despairing. He had no money and had to confront the reality that maybe sleeping on the street would be the only way out.

The Hangzhou Foreign Affairs Office got news about him from the Gabonese embassy in China, and officials got in touch with him on Feb 6. Chrysler was soon accommodated at a temporary medical inspection station.

After finishing a 14-day quarantine without showing any COVID-19-related symptoms, Chrysler decided to return to Gabon.

Local officials helped him raise money for the flight home and also helped with visa issues. He also got a bilingual notice confirming the end of his quarantine, and boarded a flight back to his home country on Feb 25.

Chrysler was only one of the many foreigners who received help from the Hangzhou Foreign Affairs Office when the outbreak was wreaking havoc in China from January to March.

An Angolan student in Hangzhou who gave her name as Pires planned to take her newborn baby back to Africa, but was perplexed by the regulation that she had to arrange her visa in person, as she feared being infected.

To avoid the risk of infection, Hangzhou officials allowed her and her baby to have their information checked via a video call. Her family expressed their gratitude through the Chinese instant messaging platform WeChat as soon as she and her baby returned to Angola.

During the outbreak, Hangzhou opened a 24-hour service hotline for foreigners in the city to deal with their needs and help calm their anxieties. Foreigners in Hangzhou also teamed up to help each other, such as Lucas Rondez, a Swiss entrepreneur who set up a WeChat group chat of 495 foreigners.

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