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September 23, 2020

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National Day holiday no break from precautions

As the National Day holiday is approaching and COVID-19 gradually retreats in China, a top medical expert cautions that travelers should not abandon public health measures such as wearing masks in crowded places.

In an interview with a former China Central Television anchor last week, Shanghai doctor Zhang Wenhong from Huashan Hospital said there will still be risks for a considerable time to come, given recent reports of new cases imported into China.

Within the country, however, there have been no new domestically transmitted cases for about a month, thanks to what Zhang called effective controls.

“You can say we are now more than 90 percent back to normal life,” said Zhang, who led Shanghai’s team of medical experts in the fight against the novel coronavirus. “But you would need 100 percent if you want to abandon yourself to travel pleasures (as usual).”

A timely warning indeed. As travelers, we are no longer restricted as was the case at the height of the pandemic — but it’s simply not time to indulge ourselves with no sense of risk in mind. Good habits, such as social distancing, had better be observed in the long run. After all, sense and action are key to preventing another possible massive spread of disease.

I went to a Starbucks shop a couple of days ago for the first time since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. It was located in the Hongqiao transportation hub, a busy area. I asked the only clerk at the counter: “Is business back a little bit? Are there more customers now?” She said yes. “More people are ready to come out now,” she said, smiling. Still, I saw customers keeping their distance from one another — by at least one table.

Doctor Zhang said China is capable of handling imported cases well, but caution is still necessary. Although 90 percent back to normal is encouraging, but it’s not 100 percent yet.

Going to a cinema is likely to be fun for many during the coming National Day holiday. China’s latest policy to cap cinema attendance at no more than 75 percent of capacity — to be effective from Friday — testifies to a mentality of continued caution, which is exactly what’s needed at this moment.

Shanghai’s Metro stations deserve applause for their insistence on every passenger wearing a mask. On one occasion, I was talking with a friend and forgot to wear my mask as I tried to enter a Metro station. A security guard stopped me and I naturally obeyed his order. He was right and I thanked him for “reminding” me of my negligence. The other day a friend of mine was stopped, at another station, for the same reason.

The city’s Metro system could do still better if it can somehow reduce the number of passengers in a carriage during peak hours.

As I stood in the Metro carriage with many passengers, I could feel their breathing from behind their masks. If staggered hours are no longer necessary to divert passenger crowds, another possible solution could be a further increase in the frequency of train services during peak hours and an encouragement of work at home for more people. There is a way where there’s a will. And the will is still strong to nip every possible risk in the bud.


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