Feature: Kazakhstanis highlight sacrifice, solidarity and gratitude in fight against pandemic

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NUR-SULTAN, April 19 (Xinhua) -- As Kazakhstanis strive to battle COVID-19, uplifting stories of sacrifice, generosity and solidarity across the country have boosted confidence to get through the pandemic.

In Kazakhstan, more than 26,000 health workers have been fighting against coronavirus since March. Many work in an emergency mode and haven't seen their families for weeks.

Oksana Shishkina is an intensive care nurse at the hospital of Semey Medical University in the East Kazakhstan Region. Mother of a 17-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy, she has been racing against time to save COVID-19 patients since April 2.

"I have been working in intensive care department for 25 years. A nurse should rescue lives and be merciful, we were taught this. I want to help and I love my work. I am glad I can help," said Shishkina.

Treating COVID-19 patients is a high-risk task. According to statistics, about 28 percent of COVID-19 cases in Kazakhstan are health workers. But many choose to take the risks for the goodness of others.

Dmitry Sanin, 27, works in a hospital in Karaganda. He has not seen his family for a month.

"My colleagues and I work in the contaminated area. We have to take all precautions to prevent infection. We wear masks, glasses, gloves, rubber shoes. We can't even take a sip of water. If it is difficult to finish the six-hour shift, you can finish it early - another person will take the turn, " Sanin said of his working hours.

Sanin, like all doctors, has advocated to the public: "We stay at work for you, you stay at home for us."

Similar slogans such as "Stay at home if you don't want to be with us!" appear on ambulances which pass through downtown areas with sound signals and flashing lights.

Respect, gratitude and support are pouring in for health workers who have been regarded as heroes by ordinary people.

"It is evident that health workers are very tired, but they support the patients as much as they can. They work around the clock and listen to the discontent of patients. They don't even go home," said Alina Dzhanzakova, a blogger who has recovered from the COVID-19 after being hospitalized for two weeks in Almaty.

In a residential block located in northwest Nur-Sultan, two artists have painted a giant picture of a female doctor on a building facade to honor health workers on the front-line.

"We are together," the artists wrote in the picture.

Local artists also dedicate songs and poems to express solidarity with health workers. More people turn their gratitude into actions, trying to make a difference in the lives of others.

Free food was delivered to health care workers at the entrance of hospitals. Businessmen organized free vacations for health care workers in resort areas during their quarantine period before returning home. Some 300 medical workers were provided with free rooms of five-star hotel in the capital. Some donate money in the anti-virus fight, some carry food and medicine to the elderly, some sew masks, and others pay for the aircraft transportation of urgently needed cargos.

The contribution of Kazakhstani doctors has also been appreciated by the Chinese medical team which has been in the Central Asian country to assist the ongoing anti-virus efforts since April 9.

"It takes a strong man to save himself, and a great man to save another," said Lu Chen, deputy team leader of the Chinese medical team, in a speech during their visit in Karaganda.

Lu cited the phrase from Stephen King's novel "The Shawshank Redemption" to emphasize the role of doctors and nurses in the battle against COVID-19.

While calling health workers "real heroes," Kazakh Health Minister Yelzhan Birtanova said he is confident that Kazakhstan would secure a victory over COVID-19, thanks to professionalism of doctors and nurses, scientific achievements and discipline of all people.

"I know many of you are unrealistically tired, and emotionally exhausted. Many cannot go home and hug your children. Many are scared. Many have become infected ... Despite this, you get up every day, go to work and save lives. You save people not for money, not for fame, because the work is like that, because it's nothing different. I'm proud of you!" said Birtanova, who saluted health workers across the country.

Kazakhstan has reported 1,711 confirmed cases and 19 deaths as of Sunday. Some 401 patients have recovered. Enditem

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