Chinese shopping malls have come up with a novel way of rewarding workers who have kept to their outdoors posts during the novel coronavirus outbreak: free drinks and snacks.
"Unmanned" freezers have propped up in cities including Shanghai and Shenzhen offering free drinks, snacks and lunches donated by nearby eateries, supermarkets and public-spirited citizens.
"Thank you for your hard work! We will win the battle against the epidemic!" read a message board beside one freezer that invites couriers, sanitation workers, police officers and volunteers to its full inventory of beverages in Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong Province.
Hundreds of millions of Chinese have followed instructions to stay indoors in the past month to minimize infection risks, leading to a surging workload for couriers delivering daily necessities and take-outs. Other outdoors workers including cleaners have been praised for taking greater risks to maintain cities' operation.
"We wish to express our gratitude to these hard-working people," said Li Wenkai, a spokesperson of COCO Park, a shopping mall in Shenzhen's Futian District that has an unmanned freezer outside its gate.
Similar freezers, accompanied by message boards of thankful notes, are also seen outside another emporium in Shenzhen and some office buildings in east China's Shanghai.
Li said the mall and its nine shops in late February donated 10,000 yuan (around 1,432 U.S. dollars) worth of drinks and snacks as the first batch of goods to fill the freezer, whose supplies have been supported by public donations since then.
On Saturday noon, Xinhua reporters saw the freezer receive several rounds of public donations, from five cups of milk tea to over a dozen cartons of beverages piled up beside the freezer.
"I brought my daughter along to help donate goods, which I hope will make her feel more connected to the city," said a resident surnamed Huang, who was filling the freezer with 10 boxed meals.
Besides the freezer hangs another envelope that offers free masks, which have been in tight supply since the outbreak, to sanitation workers.
Many couriers were surprised and touched by the act of kindness. "It cools my throat but warms my heart," said a courier who took a bottle of water from the freezer.