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Scientist from Italy plans to stay in Wuhan

Updated: Feb 21, 2020 chinadaily.com.cn Print

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

Sara Platto, a well-known expert on animal behavior, could have returned to Italy at the beginning of the novel coronavirus pneumonia epidemic but chose to stay in Wuhan, Hubei province, the focal point of the disease.

"I don't have any intention to leave Wuhan. It is my home. And I'm more useful here than any other place," said Platto, an associate professor at Jianghan University's School of Life Sciences and a science consultant at the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation.

She and her son Matteo have lived in Wuhan for eight years. Matteo is in love with a local specialty, a baozi-style steamed bun.

Jan 23, the day Wuhan was locked down to fight the disease, also was Matteo's 12th birthday.

"The epidemic and lockdown of the city change a lot of things. You can't go shopping or dining with friends as usual. It is really challenging because you need to readjust everything," Platto said.

To prevent the further spread of the virus, the local government imposed strict traffic regulations, including having people stay at home as much as possible.

Unlike the many anxious and depressed people around her, Platto says she thinks that "life is not that difficult", and she always speaks in an upbeat tone filled with laughter.

"I have full confidence in the Chinese people and in the doctors and the nurses who work so hard," she said. "Compared with the situation at the beginning, China has made great changes. It has shown the world its strength."

To help foreigners in Wuhan, local authorities initiated special telephone services in late January. Hubei opened 60 bilingual service hotlines and has answered more than 23,000 calls from foreign residents in the province, according to the foreign affairs office of the provincial government.

Notices also have been issued in multiple languages on various platforms providing information about prevention and control, health practices and the availability of services.

Zou Shuai, director of the Vanke Jinyulanwan community, said there are more than 10 foreigners living in his community, which houses over 10,000 people.

"We offer special help for expats like Platto who may face challenges in communicating. We have deployed a bilingual liaison officer to help foreigners living in our community."

It has now been nearly a month since the city was locked down. Platto said she doesn't know when the epidemic will end, but she does see improvement.

"The change came slowly. But we have seen some results," she said."Laughter is the best medicine for the epidemic."

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