HOHHOT, March 26 (Xinhua) -- The COVID-19 epidemic has made herders in northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region cautious of migrating with their yurts.
They have turned the emergency call at the Hulun Buir border police station into a helpline since March, talking in a careful tone on the phone, like the frail ones who have just recovered from a severe illness.
"Every day we received phone calls from herdsmen with various kinds of requests for help, asking whether we could assist their ewes at lambing, handle the paper work for production resumption or even fix the Internet," said Zhang Junming, a police officer with the station.
Zhang got a phone call on March 3 from a herder named Husele, who was asking whether he could move the yurt to somewhere with a good 4G network signal. The family had dared not to do that since the outbreak.
Husele got a good reason he had to move. Aliyaa, his daughter in elementary school, had missed her classes for two days due to poor network connection, since her teachers were livestreaming the courses as new school semester resumed.
The little girl lost her appetite and was so worried that she began to cry, said the father.
Zhang and two other officers went to help the next day, yet the whole process of moving was quite depressing when he found that Husele seemed to keep a certain distance from him deliberately.
A text message from Husele popped up on Zhang's phone later that night, which said, "Thanks bro. I didn't talk to you guys for fear of causing you trouble. Please don't mind." The herder also invited them over to have hand-tore mutton when the epidemic ends.
Local herdsmen used to hire people from other places to help during the spring-lambing season that starts from March. However, it definitely won't work this time under current circumstances, especially in the lamb boom, even with mutual assistance between the sheep farmers.
After reporting to the brigade, Zhang and some other police officers were sent to households by the local government to help herdsmen pick up their lambs.
Zhang said he and his colleagues were busy working as "midwives," nurses and buying clerks for the herders during that period. "We had been always on the run, welcoming the newborns."
One day when Zhang was feeding a calf, a herder named Hurd asked him when will the bathhouse in town open, saying that he stank for not having had a shower in the whole winter due to limited conditions on the prairie.
Hotels, restaurants and bathhouses in Hulun Buir resumed operations on March 21. The herdsmen could finally take a good bath after holding back for such a long time.
Zhang and others have been busy making registrations these days for hundreds of people who came back to the border area for work, checking on their green health codes one after another.
"Spring has returned to the earth, so have people's hopes," he said.