Wuhan people thank outside medical staff for saving lives

Medical workers display a shirt they signed before heading home. JIN ZHENQIANG/FOR CHINA DAILY

The last remaining medical team that came to aid Hubei province in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak left the provincial capital of Wuhan on Wednesday, signaling that medical care for COVID-19 patients in Wuhan, the city hardest hit by the outbreak on the Chinese mainland, has entered a new phase of self-reliance, the team leader said.

The arrival of more than 42,000 medics sent from all over China since Jan 24 has not only helped Hubei people recover from the highly contagious virus that has become a global threat but also significantly boosted locals' confidence in winning the fight, Wuhan people said.

The departure of the medics from Peking Union Medical College Hospital-the last medical team to leave Wuhan and Hubei-marks a new phase of the epidemic control situation in Wuhan.

"It shows that medics in the city are capable of handling COVID-19 patients, including caring for those still in severe condition," Zhang Shuyang, leader of the team and Party secretary of hospital, said when the team received a grand send-off from Wuhan people on Wednesday.

The first group of medics from the hospital joined the team from Tongji Hospital, affiliated to Huazhong University of Science and Technology's Zhongfa Xincheng branch, 80 days ago. The hospital was one of the first hospitals in Wuhan to be designated to treat COVID-19 patients in severe condition. A total of 186 medics from the hospital eventually joined the team to tackle the most challenging cases.

Zhang, who arrived in Wuhan on Feb 7, said she wasn't even sure if she would make it back to Beijing as the epidemic control situation in Wuhan was grave.

"No one knew how the epidemic could have developed," she said. "It's quite an achievement to have the outbreak mainly contained in quite a short time."

In addition to the medical team from Peking Union, 22 other teams had come to aid the branch, with 2,836 medics from other parts of China working with 1,684 local medics. The branch received 1,937 COVID-19 patients in severe condition, and so far 1,611 of them have been discharged, according to Tongji Hospital.

After learning that the team is leaving, many locals came to the street to see them off. Some living in apartments nearby opened up windows and waved national flags to let the medics know Wuhan people will never forget their efforts. As the fleet of buses carried the Beijing medics to the airport, people stopped their cars and honked their horns.

"To see the arrival of medics from all over China was like seeing the light at the end of a dark tunnel for Wuhan people during the tough times, when the number of confirmed cases was climbing and medical resources were overstretched," said Li Yuanyuan, who came to say goodbye to the team.

By the end of Tuesday, of the 3,342 people who died from COVID-19 in China, 2,579 were from Wuhan, according to the National Health Commission.

More than 38,680 medics sent from all over China have worked in Wuhan to reduce the fatality rate. With the outbreak gradually being contained, the teams have been leaving since March. "Their bravery and professionalism saved us all," Li said.