Thank You for Your Hard Work in the Anti-epidemic Campaign

Text: Debby Seng & Davis Ip │ Photo: Debby Seng, Campus Management and Development Office, with some provided by interviewees

Since the novel coronavirus outbreak, the University of Macau (UM) has been working hard to prevent an outbreak on campus. On 23 January, UM established a task force for pneumonia prevention and control to formulate contingency plans. Over the past few weeks, some UM staff members as well as over 300 outsourced workers from 18 external service providers continued to work hard to ensure the cleanliness and security of the campus, the health of all UM members, as well as a steady supply of food and daily necessities. UM Rector Yonghua Song has visited the premises of these service providers on campus to thank all the outsourced workers for their hard work. In this article, we interview some outsourced workers and staff in the Medical Centre to learn more about their experiences during this anti-epidemic period.

A security guard measures visitors’ body temperature at the entrance of one of the main buildings on campus

Ensuring Sufficient Food Supply for Those Staying on Campus

There are ten residential colleges and a Postgraduate House at UM. During the epidemic, several hundred people were staying in these buildings. Ensuring sufficient food supply became a top priority.

Rector Yonghua Song (right) visits a restaurant on campus to learn more about its daily operation

On 8 February, the Chinese Lantern Festival, Rector Song visited the premises of the service providers on campus to learn more about their daily operation. When Rector Song arrived at one of the restaurants responsible for supplying food to some of the RCs and the Postgraduate House, the manager of the restaurant, Liang Qiao, was getting ready to deliver the food. Liang says, ‘We only have seven employees at the time to take care of the food for all UM faculty, students, and security guards staying on campus. When the outbreak first started, we prepared sufficient lunch boxes and anti-epidemic items such as face masks. And we arranged for the employees staying on campus to live in the dormitories. I was very excited to see the rector that day. He thanked us for our hard work, and reminded us to implement anti-epidemic measures, to ensure compliance with hygiene standards, and to take care of our own health.’

Liang Qiao gets ready to deliver food supplies

Staying on Campus to Assist with Anti-epidemic Efforts

Zhou Changhua works for a company that is responsible for the security, cleaning, and management of UM’s Postgraduate House and Staff Quarter. Before the Chinese New Year, Zhou and his subordinates decided to cancel their holidays. In late January, after a residential UM employee’s two family members from Hubei were sent to the hospital for feeling unwell, dormitory manager Fan Jinpeng and his colleagues immediately put on protective clothes, safety glasses, and face masks and entered the building for disinfection. ‘We all heaved a sigh of relief the next day, when the test results of the patients came back negative for coronavirus infection,’ says Fan.

Zhou Changhua (middle) and Fan Jinpeng (right)

Zhou and his colleagues visited the students living on campus and managed to record the necessary information about the residents in over 1,000 rooms in the Postgraduate House within five hours. When given instructions to create a dedicated quarantine area in the dormitory building, they swung into action: thoroughly disinfecting the entire building, examining existing furniture, and buying additional pieces of furniture.

Neither Zhou nor his subordinates anticipated that they would spend the Chinese New Year Eve with their colleagues instead of their family members. A native of Hubei province, Zhou says, ‘In a way, it was fortunate that I decided to cancel my holiday, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to return to Macao. I believe the epidemic will be over soon, and we can return home when it’s safe.’

An outsourced worker disinfects the access control system at the entrance of a building

Promptly Handling Suspected Cases

On 23 January, UM’s Medical Centre set up a special area for clinical diagnosis and has since been strictly following the instructions of the Health Bureau, with the joint efforts of all outsourced medical workers. The centre ensures the health and safety of medical workers by examining protective equipment on a daily basis and following up with all patients who have visited the clinic. In late January, a residential UM employee’s two family members from Hubei visited the clinic and reported feeling unwell. At the time, the centre was closely monitoring the health status of all individuals returning to campus from Hubei province. Cheang Sau Kun, a nurse working at the centre, recalls the sudden rush of anxiety she felt when the two patients were found to be having a fever. ‘We followed the procedures and called an ambulance to send them to the hospital for examination, and we were preparing for the worst-case scenario,’ she says.

Nurse Cheang Sau Kun (2nd from left) and outsourced medical personnel at the UM Medical Centre

Over the past few weeks, staff in the Medical Centre have been very busy. Cheang still vividly remembers the day when she went out buying thermometers with her colleagues. ‘The collective anxiety was almost palpable,’ she says. ‘It was as if people were bracing themselves for an imminent war.’

Ensuring Uninterrupted Food Supply

Zhang Hongcai, the person in charge of the campus supermarket, received a list of urgently needed supplies from UM on the evening of 28 January. He took immediate action and started purchasing all the items on the list. He worked until the wee hours. But that was just the beginning of his frantic work schedule. Since early February, he has been working from morning till midnight every day. In the early stages of the epidemic, many suppliers were closed, so Zhang and his colleagues arranged vehicles to deliver supplies to the university. The supermarket has also increased the supply of fresh meat products since 9 February to provide convenience for faculty members and students living on campus.

The supermarket works hard to ensure uninterrupted food supplies on campus

According to Wu Zhenyuan, a cashier working in the supermarket, during the early days of the epidemic, many customers visited the supermarket several days in a row to stock up on essential items for fear that those items would soon run out. ‘There was always a long queue at the checkout counter, and we were also understaffed,’ he says. ‘Some of my colleagues have been working for more than two weeks without a break.’

Wu Zhenyuan, a cashier at the campus supermarket (left)

Temperature Monitoring on Campus

Security guards have been stationed at the entrances and exits of more than 60 buildings on campus to measure visitors’ body temperature and check their health declaration forms. Alcohol-based hand sanitiser and lidded rubbish bins for used face masks have been set up in public places. Dedicated rooms have been reserved for those who need to conduct self-quarantine. All personnel on campus are required to wear masks and group activities are prohibited in public areas on campus. Cleaning workers have been arranged to disinfect public areas and equipment on a regular basis. Security guards have also stepped up patrol to ensure strict implementation of these measures. To prevent the spread of the virus through air conditioning systems, workers are required to clean the filters of central air conditioning systems more frequently and to increase outdoor air flow.

Zhang Bo measures visitors’ body temperature at the entrance of a building

Zhang Bo, a security guard from Zhuhai, says that she has met some people who were unwilling to cooperate by wearing face masks and filling out the health declaration form, which made her a bit worried. What she wants to do the most when the epidemic is over is to return to Zhuhai to see her two children. ‘I make video calls to them every day,’ she says. ‘Each time when my younger daughter says ‘Mom, I miss you very much! When are you coming back?” It was all I could do to fight back my tears. We haven’t seen each other for over 20 days, and I really miss them.’

Thank You for Your Hard Work

The 18 service providers are Companhia de Seguranca China, (Macau) Limitada; Companhia de Servicos NK, Limitada; Tong Nam – Yuean Consortium; Companhia de Jardinagem Iau Heng Limitada; Companhia de Servicos de Propriedades Golde Court (Macau) Limitada; Companhia de Engenharia Jardine (Macau) Limitada; Genesis Healthcare Ltd; Sociedade Comercial de Servicos de Aluguer de Automoveis Vang Iec, Limitada; Luen Fung Food Supermarket; Bright Gain Restaurante Companhia, Limitada; Guangdong Yinyuan Catering Service Company Limited Macau Branch Office; Pacific Coffee; Red Forest; Vinyuan Siu Gwan Gon; Kou Fu Food Court; Chopsticks; Subway; and Padaria da Guia.