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Border villagers team up to take on virus

By WANG XIAOYU in Ruili, Yunnan, and LI YINGQING in Kunming | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-11-18 10:35
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A volunteer team of villagers patrols Guangnong village to promote epidemic prevention in Ruili, Yunnan province, on Monday. WU XIAOHUI/CHINA DAILY

Every Monday evening, Han Jing, a farmer in a border village in Ruili, Yunnan province, leaves her backyard cornfield, puts on a face mask and an armband, and begins an hour's patrol with five other villagers.

Han, 34, is a member of a 38-woman patrol team in Guangnong village tasked with spreading the latest knowledge on COVID-19 control policies and personal protective measures via loudspeakers.

"Rain or shine, we are always on duty for several hours once a week," she said. "We have set up an online messaging group. At about 8 am and 7 pm, one of us will give a shout when it is time to assemble and start working."

Ruili, a city hemmed in by 169.8 kilometers of the Myanmar border on three sides, has faced a challenging situation preventing imported COVID-19 infections.

The border is only dozens of meters from the nearest houses in Guangnong, which has 70 households and nearly 290 residents, said Zhang Jing, an official in Jiexiang township, which administers the village.

"Amid the fight against the disease, we found that villagers are more than willing to make contributions in order to beat back the virus," she said. "But they did not know how to participate and lacked clear instructions from the authorities."

The village then set up a compact task force that consolidates different authorities. Together, they discuss and oversee a variety of virus-control tasks, ranging from arranging patrols and sanitation teams to addressing livelihood problems reported by villagers.

"We have devised a timetable, where each household can check and see when it is their turn to step up and man positions aimed at stamping out the risk of the virus," Zhang said.

Han said that in the past, one of the villagers' favorite pastimes was to gather after lunch or dinner and chat about crop yields and cultivation plans for the next season.

When she first began patrolling in April, nobody seemed to take the virus seriously and she had to constantly remind people to wear masks when going out.

"Now, mask-wearing in public spaces has become a habit of all villagers," she said. "I am so happy to see the change and feel that I am making a small but effective contribution to battling the virus."

Zhang said the strength of some villagers' determination to beat back the virus surprised her.

In September, the local government asked all households living within 50 meters of the border to move away temporarily to reduce the risk of contracting the virus.

After receiving the notice at midnight, Zhang immediately organized a meeting with four households living close to the border.

"One villager frankly said it was not an easy decision to make, but he completely understood the severity of the virus and the need to protect the health of fellow villagers," she said. "I was deeply moved when all of them said OK."

The four households spent the next morning moving to houses of relatives or public housing.

Ai Yuan moved to his uncle's house, along with his grandmother, wife and daughter. He said each person in the household receives a monthly subsidy of 600 yuan ($94).

Ai guards the entrance to the village. "The epidemic is like the rain pouring outside," he said. "We all know that rain will eventually stop and the sky will clear up, the sun will rise."

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