Feature: Taxi fleets escort medical workers in fight against coronavirus in NW China
XI'AN, Feb. 11 (Xinhua) -- At six o'clock one chilly morning, taxi driver Wang Zhizhong, 59, had finished disinfecting his cab and set out on a journey to provide free rides for medical workers in northwest China's Shannxi Province.
His first passenger was a pediatric nurse from the First Affiliated Hospital of Xi'an Jiaotong University, one of the designated hospitals to take in patients with the novel coronavirus in Shaanxi, and also the main spot for Wang to pick up passengers every day.
The number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases has so far exceeded 200 in the province.
In an effort to contain the spread of the epidemic, Xi'an, capital of the province, has suspended online taxi-hailing services and 106 bus lines across the city, and the departure intervals of the bus lines still in operation were also extended by one hour.
The suspension brought some inconvenience to medical workers who need to commute to and from hospitals every workday.
In order to ensure the travel of medical personnel at the front line of the fight against the epidemic, the Taxi Association of Xi'an on Jan. 28 called on cab drivers in the city to provide free travel services for medical workers in nine designated hospitals with heavy epidemic prevention and control tasks.
"My cab is available at any time." "I'm willing to provide free rides to medical workers." "Let me join in the battle." In less than a day, nine taxi fleets consisting of over 500 vehicles including Wang's were set up.
Wang's family was not supportive of his decision at first.
"My wife is afraid of any risk of the virus infecting me," said Wang. "But she soon changed her mind after seeing so many medical workers risk their lives to help the infected patients."
"She helps clean the car and disinfect me no matter how late I come back home," said Wang.
"Thanks for your work." Wang always gives a thumbs-up to each medical worker taking his taxi.
"They are too tired. Many of them fall asleep minutes after the car departs," said Wang. "It's meaningful for me to offer them a cozy ride home."
An orange, a bottle of disinfectant, several face masks... These small gestures are how medical workers expressed their appreciation to taxi drivers.
"A doctor gave me a bottle of fresh milk last night. He threw it in through the window and ran away," Wang said. "Many people also sent me a thank you message or tip."
"In fact, they are the ones that deserve our heartfelt gratitude," said Wang.
More and more cabs and private cars joined in Wang's team in support of medical workers.
"It is harder than usual to grab an order. More and more people have come to help," said Wang.
The cab driver worked for 16 hours and returned home at around 10 o'clock in the evening, much longer than his usual working time.
"Offering free rides to medical workers in need is the most we taxi drivers can do to help combat the disease. It's not a big deal," said Wang.