On Dec 8, at a residential community at 450 Hangcheng Seven Road in Shanghai's Pudong New Area, Ma Jie brought a bunch of flowers to his wife. He hadn't seen her for 28 days, despite being just minutes away by car.
Ma, Party secretary of Yingqian village in Zhuqiao town, lives in the community, about a 10-minute drive from the village.
During a recent two week lockdown in the village, Ma was busy communicating and coordinating various measures.
In addition to arranging nucleic acid tests for residents, he helped obtain medicine, arrange hospital visits, deal with residents' emergencies and comfort people. He slept on the floor beside the sofa in his office.
After two weeks of quarantine, Ma finally breathed a sigh of relief as he saw life in the village return to normal with a rising number of people and cars.
"I had to eat steamed buns for meals three times a day in those 14 days, and often had to eat them cold as it was hard to find a fixed dining time," he said.
"My biggest wish was to have a hot meal, chat with more people, like my parents, who are in their 80s, and hug my 2-year-old grandson after my family worried about me for more than 10 days."
While Ma was busy preparing the reopening of Yingqian, which was locked down on Nov 9 as a result of a confirmed case of COVID-19, a similar situation was imposed on his community in Pudong New Area after a confirmed case was reported there on Nov 23.
"My wife had prepared for my homecoming on Nov 24 and had arranged a reunion dinner with my parents and family," he said, adding that his immediate family, parents and close relatives all live in the community.
Ma realized he would have to sleep in the temporary office in the neighborhood committee for another 14 days.
"I'd almost run out of the clean clothes I brought to the village, since I couldn't wash them there. I had already accumulated a lot of dirty clothes," he said.
Unable to return home, Ma stayed in the village. While he worked in the office by day, he became accustomed to sleeping on the floor at night.
He ran grocery errands for his family, leaving the goods outside the entrance of the community on Hangcheng Seven Road.
At midnight on Dec 8, after a 14-day lockdown, the community became the last medium-risk area in Shanghai to be cleared.
"It was good to come home,"Ma said. "My wife and I have been married for 32 years, and I have never sent her flowers. Now, I feel that a safe home is the greatest happiness in life."
Recalling his 28 days away, Ma said it was the most stressful and busy period of his life. However, it was meaningful.
"There are more than 1,570 families like mine in Yingqian. The sweat of my colleagues and I have brought peace and harmony to those families. Our hard work has helped hundreds of people avoid the epidemic and proved that COVID-19 is preventable," Ma said.
"We're set to continue our prevention efforts and look forward to welcoming a healthy and sound New Year."