Aviation staff in northeast China stay put for Lunar New Year



Civil airline traffic at Tonghua airport has been suspended due to the resurgence of the coronavirus, Tonghua City, northeast China's Jilin Province, January 16, 2021. /CGTN

The Lunar New Year is one of the most important family holidays in China. Yet the latest outbreak of COVID-19 in the country's northeast has stopped hundreds of thousands of people from visiting their loved ones. As part of the epidemic control measures against COVID-19, China encouraged people to stay put and celebrate the holiday where they are. For some, their work has continued.

Zhou Jingtao, 28, works at Shenyang Taoxian International Airport. His mother had prepared for her son's return weeks ago, but this year Zhou had to spend his first ever Chinese New Year away from home.

Zhou has not seen his family for over a year. Despite this, the young man decided to stay on in the provincial capital of Liaoning to ensure safe travel for hundreds of thousands of passengers.

"I'm young and healthy. I don't want to leave the duty to older colleges, especially when there's a pandemic" said Zhou. "It's not that I don't miss home or don't want to reunite with my family. It's just safer to celebrate from where we are."

Zhou Jingtao refuels a plane parked at Shenyang Taoxian International Airport, in Shenyang, northeast China's Liaoning Province. /CGTN

Zhou's company, China National Aviation Fuel Group (CNAFG), the nation's largest state-owned aviation fuel supplier, prepared meals for its employees on Lunar New Year's Eve, including dumplings, a must-have seasonal meal for many Chinese.

"I can't be with my parents this year, but I do feel warm and happy staying here. I'm sure we'll meet again once the outbreak ends," he said.

There are many employees like Zhou who opted to hold their positions during the holiday as they tried to avoid the risk of infection while traveling. Yet for employees who work in Tonghua, the worst-hit city by the resurgence of coronavirus last month in northeastChina's Jilin Province, the option of going home is not even on the table.

On January 16, Tonghua implemented what local authorities call the toughest possible epidemic control measures of the city. Though local health commission announced on February 8 that the outbreak was basically under control, authorities have not yet released further details on when the city-wide lockdown will be lifted.

A ground staffer is doing maintenance on a jetliner at Shenyang Taoxian International Airport, Shenyang, northeast China's Liaoning Province. /CGTN

Stranded in Tonghua, Zhou's colleagues continue their work, including maintenance and fuel quality inspections. Their job is to keep everything in check despite the suspension of civil airlines in the region.

"Look after ourselves, ensure safety at work, and keep everything in order – that's what we've done amid the outbreak," said Li Dongwei, manager of a fuel supply station. "And be prepared for any emergencies."

For the workers, there are always measures to connect with loved ones. Making video calls with family and friends has become one of the most important moments of the day amid the outbreak.

A newlywed worker told CGTN that he cannot be with his wife this year, but as long as their hearts are with each other, love will triumph over physical boundaries even half a world away.