President Xi Jinping with Zhong Nanshan (front second right), who was awarded the Medal of the Republic, and recipients of the national honorary title People's Hero, Chen Wei (front left), Zhang Boli (front second left) and Zhang Dingyu (front right), for their work against the novel coronavirus disease at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on September 8 (XINHUA)
Recalling the national fight against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) epidemic, Zhong Nanshan, China's top respiratory disease specialist, couldn't help getting choked up.
The 84-year-old recounted that one day one of his students working at Tongji Hospital in Wuhan, then the hardest-hit area in the country, sent him a message saying that residents in his neighborhood were singing the national anthem to cheer each other up amid the raging epidemic.
"This is the Chinese nation. These are the Chinese people. Nothing can defeat us," Zhong told state broadcaster China Central Television in an interview aired on September 8, adding that it was this kind of national morale that enabled the country to overcome difficulties.
On the same day, a ceremony was held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing to commend role models in the fight against COVID-19. Zhong received the Medal of the Republic, the highest state honor.
In his speech, Zhong said that despite success in COVID-19 prevention and control in China at this stage, there should be no relaxing of epidemic response. "We will work hand in hand with medical staff across the country and the rest of the world… to make greater contributions to the global anti-pandemic cause and the building of a global community of health for all," he said.
A meeting commending role models in the country's fight against the novel coronavirus epidemic is held in Beijing on September 8
As a renowned respiratory disease expert based in Guangdong Province in south China, Zhong saved many lives during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak back in 2003 by formulating therapeutic solutions which helped Guangdong become one of the regions with the highest recovery rate and the lowest mortality rate among SARS patients in the world.
During the early stage of the COVID-19 epidemic in China in January, Zhong alerted the public by announcing that the novel coronavirus was transmissible from person to person, a discovery that was critical at a time of confusion and helped change China's anti-epidemic work.
Zhong also gave advice and other information through the media on the prevention and control of the virus to inform and educate the general public. "During the epidemic, ordinary Chinese people said they would listen to Zhong's advice when they needed to decide whether to go out or not. It showed people's genuine trust in and appreciation of him," Ran Pixin, Director of the State Key Laboratory of Respiratory Diseases of Guangzhou Medical University, who has been studying and working with Zhong since 1993, told Xinhua News Agency.
Upon receiving the award, Zhong said, "The honor is not just for me, but for the entire health community. It is a remarkable recognition and respect for the staff of the epidemic prevention and control system." In September, Zhong was selected as a member of a panel appointed by the World Health Organization to review the worldwide COVID-19 response.
Chen Wei, a military medical scientist who made major contributions to the development of a vaccine for COVID-19, was awarded the title of People's Hero at the meeting.
Led by Chen, the vaccine developed by her research team was the first in the world to enter phase-two clinical trials in April. The study results were published online by the medical journal The Lancet.
Chen said the title is both an honor and a shared responsibility. "As a military medical researcher, I believe that only through overcoming difficulties and steady progress can we live up to this era and our mission," she told China News Service.
Two other outstanding medical professionals were given People's Hero recognition at the meeting: Zhang Boli, a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) expert who presided over research of the COVID-19 treatment combining TCM and Western medicine, and Zhang Dingyu, head of Wuhan's designated coronavirus-treating Jinyintan Hospital.
President Xi Jinping presented the medals to the recipients at the ceremony, attended by about 3,000 people.
Xi said China has achieved another heroic feat in humanity's fight against disease by securing major strategic advancements in the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic.
The country managed to contain the rapid spread of the virus in just over a month. In about two months, the daily increase in domestic coronavirus cases fell to single digit, while a decisive victory was secured in Wuhan in about three months. In addition, it has effectively contained sporadic outbreaks in other parts of the country.
Xi went on to summarize China's spirit of combating the COVID-19 epidemic, which featured putting people's lives first, practicing nationwide solidarity and sacrifice, respecting science and having a sense of mission for humanity.
"We are willing to do whatever it takes to protect people's lives," he said. Xi lauded the people for uniting as one and commended the heroes emerging from all walks of life amid the epidemic.
In addition,1,499 individuals, 500 groups, 186 members of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and 150 primary-level Party organizations were commended for their roles in fighting the epidemic. Fourteen Party members were also posthumously commended.
Watching the live broadcast of the ceremony, Lin Zhenguo, a postgraduate student at the School of Public Health of Xiamen University, felt proud that the university's National Institute of Diagnostics and Vaccine Development in Infectious Diseases was one of the groups awarded.
"As a public health major, I was very grateful to, touched and inspired by the national heroes and unsung heroes who made the containment of the epidemic possible," Lin said.
Liu Xing, a teacher at a primary school in Tianjin, said that her students were inspired by the national heroes awarded at the meeting. "They told me during class recently that they want to be doctors and military personnel so they can help others and serve the country," she told Beijing Review.
"The stories of those national heroes can plant the seed of integrity and courage in children's hearts. These types of award ceremonies should be greatly promoted as they have a positive impact on them."
(Printed Edition Title: People's Heroes)
Copyedited by Rebeca Toledo
Comments to email@example.com