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Recovering expat loves China too much to leave

By Pei Pei in Shenzhen, Guangdong | China Daily | Updated: 2020-02-26 09:15

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

As various countries evacuate their citizens from China because of the novel coronavirus outbreak, some expats are saying thanks, but no thanks.

"I didn't want to be discharged from the hospital. I miss the friendliness there," said a 34-year-old Pakistani physicist in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. On Feb 10, he became the first infected foreigner in the city to be declared free of the virus.

He declined to give his name and asked to be called Ali.

Ali, who has been in China since 2014, is pursuing postdoctoral studies at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.

In January, he arrived in Shenzhen to visit friends. Then he came down with a fever and went to a clinic for treatment.

After a test for the novel coronavirus, he tested positive.

Doctors urgently transferred him to Third People's Hospital of Shenzhen, the designated hospital for people infected with novel coronavirus. Because of language and cultural barriers, the doctors didn't explain much about the transfer, and he was anxious for a while.

"When I stood in the corridor of the hospital and waited for the medical staff to go through the transfer procedures, I still didn't quite understand what had happened. To be honest, I felt a lot of pressure," he said.

Comforted by doctor

At Third People's Hospital, Ali calmed down with the help of Chen Jun, the doctor in charge of his treatment for 14 days. Chen speaks fluent English.

"He comforted me with a soft tone, and I felt better," Ali said.

During his hospitalization, Ali felt a sense of warmth from everyone around him, even from the cleaning staff.

"They treated me like family," he said. "Although I couldn't see the smiles on their masked faces, I could see smiles in their eyes."

Every morning, a staff member surnamed Luo came into Ali's ward and greeted him in English, which touched him.

The patients like Luo. She has a kind manner and engages in casual daily chats, which are a great consolation, Chen said.

"A good mood helps patients recover. We find different ways to cheer them up," he said.

"For Ali, we set up a special WeChat group in which his professor and friends in China could console him."

Ali spoke highly of Chen's medical proficiency.

"The doctor and his team are very professional and excellent. They did a tremendous job in our treatment. They are the hope of many people."

Treated like a local

After leaving the hospital, Ali was asked to quarantine himself for two weeks, and he said he wanted to comply. The problem was that he had no accommodations in the city.

That's when Shenzhen's municipal foreign affairs office stepped in, finding him a hotel room and arranging for Shenzhen University staff members to respond to his needs.

"Shenzhen has made every effort to prevent and control the epidemic. We treat foreigners, wherever they come from, like local citizens and take concrete steps to protect their health. We are happy to say that, as of Feb 19, all seven foreigners have recovered," said Cai Ying, chief of the foreign affairs office.

"I feel good now," Ali said. Every day, he gets up at 6 am, spends three hours exercising and then devotes himself to academic research.

"The staff is very attentive and prepares all my favorite foods for me," he said.

Praying for Wuhan

Ali received his doctorate and devotes his time to his favorite scientific research in Wuhan.

"Chinese people are so friendly. The friendship between China and Pakistan is deep. I love China so much. In five years, I only returned to Pakistan once."

Ali wants to see Wuhan's return to health soon.

"Every day I pray for Wuhan. I pray for China to get rid of the virus soon. I believe we will defeat the virus and win the war," he said.

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