Hairstylists travel to epidemic frontlines to bring hope with clean cuts

Special: Battle Against Novel Coronavirus

Hairstylist Chen Youfang used to have the busiest day of the year on Feb. 24, also known as Longtaitou (dragon raises head) day, as many Chinese traditionally believe that a new hairdo on the day will bring good luck.

This year, her hair salon will remain shuttered in northwest China's Qinghai Province, and her business seems to have reached its lowest ebb amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

But Chen, 50, did not lay down her buzzing hair clippers.

She volunteered to join a team consisting of more than 100 public-spirited hairdressers who have offered free haircuts for around 1,000 police officers and medical workers on the front line of the epidemic control in Xining, capital of Qinghai, as of Monday.

Chinese health authorities said the overall confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infections on the Chinese mainland had reached 72,436 by the end of Monday, and 1,868 people had died of the disease.

Many medics, police officers and community workers have been battling the epidemic at the primary level in urban and rural areas. Many do not have time to go home, let alone get a haircut.

Wearing masks, Chen and her teammates started their work after body temperature checks and disinfection. Their temporary hair salons were usually set up in big conference rooms with good ventilation in police offices or hospitals of Xining.

When she took out the comb and lowered her head, she saw the tangled mass of hair of a male police officer, who had no time to wash his hair for a long time.

"Cutting hair is the top priority for us. The hairstylists not only helped us cut our hair but also removed our tiredness," said 32-year-old policeman Lu Jiakang who was busy checking vehicles and passengers at highway toll stations these days.

In a temporary hair salon in the Second People's Hospital of Xining, 42-year-old Wang Meican and his teammates saw their "customers" -- 16 doctors and nurses on standby set to travel to Wuhan, the epicenter of the epidemic.

As of Monday, Qinghai had sent more than 200 doctors and nurses to aid Wuhan. Wang Yuxiang, Party secretary of the hospital, said the move of cutting long hair aims to reduce the medical personnel's risk of being infected.

When Wang Meican cut off the long hair of Yang Qingxiang, the 33-year-old nurse cried. "I seldom cut my hair even at ordinary times," she said.

"Your hair will grow out soon and become more healthy," Wang Meican comforted her. Then he wrapped Yang's 20-cm-long hair with a piece of newspaper and handed it to the nurse.

"To protect our hairstylists and 'customers,' we strictly follow virus prevention and control regulations, including disinfection. We also asked the stylists not to talk too much during their work," said Liu Donghao, one of the initiators of the volunteer team.

Having spent 30 years cutting hair, Chen Youfang has witnessed the development of Xining and the rise of the hairdressing industry.

"Perhaps a hairdresser was not regarded as a decent job. But I have gained dignity in my job through my work doing something for others during the epidemic," she said.