With no consulates in Wuhan, worried African students cry for help to leave coronavirus-hit city
London, Jan. 28, 2020 (AltAfrica)- African students in Wuhan, China are deeply worried of what becomes their fate in the face of the new coronavirus infection spreading like bush fire. And with no African embassies in China, where will the help come from
While many European countries are already making contingency arrangements to evacuate their citizens from the virus hit cities, only Morocco has announced plans in Africa to evacuate 100 citizens, mostly students, from the Wuhan area.
A Ghanaian student has told the BBC about the terrifying ordeal of African and other foreign students in the Chinese city of Wuhan, which is in lock-down following the deadly outbreak of the new coronavirus
In the interview, the student, who asked not be named, said ” We are scared because the numbers keep increasing. At the dormitory if you meet somebody they go to the other side of the corridor. Nobody wants to meet anybody.
“We are scared because the numbers keep increasing. At the dormitory if you meet somebody they go to the other sie of the corridor. Nobody wants to meet anybody. Ladies are crying. They want to go home. They are panicking. They are losing hope. We don’t want to stay here.”
Further accounts by African students studying at universities in Wuhan report the authorities have been diligent in providing masks, hand sanitizers and information to aid students in protecting themselves from contracting the virus
Another biggest worry for students right now seems to be a potential shortage of food. “In the beginning when they announced the shutdown, you could see that stores were running out of food. People were worried like…do we have enough?”, Wilson, an African student studying in Wuhan told BlackLivity .
Quartz reports says there are an estimated 4,600 students from 12 African countries studying in Wuhan, China, ground zero for the deadly virus’ spread, according to Development Reimagined, an international development consultancy in Beijing. But there are also other African nationals in the Hubei province outside the academic community.
Some African students have traveled back to their country of origin during the holiday vacation. Two days ago, a 34- year old student arriving on a flight from Beijing to the Ivory Coast was hospitalized after displaying flu-like symptoms. She is currently still in the hospital for testing.
Other students have opted to stay in China during the holiday, in order to conserve time and financial resources. They are facing the fallout from the deadly virus along with the rest of China’s worried populous.
No cases of African nationals contracting the virus within China have been reported. But, that could change quickly. Though Africans students are receiving support from their universities, African nationals living and working in China independent of the university system remain vulnerable. The major issue is that the true burden of ensuring the safety of African nationals falls on the shoulders of African governments themselves, a task that is proving difficult.
At present, there is no African government with an embassy or consulate in Wuhan, leaving officials to rely on support from the consulates including France, Korea, US, UK on the ground in the city
Compounding this issue is that a number of African embassies were closed for the Lunar New Year holiday prior to the outbreak.
“Some ambassadors are still out of town. Coordinating is very challenging and the resources and data the embassies have to hand are very limited,” said African Union Ambassador to China in a statement issued to Quartz.
Several African governments have issued statements for nationals abroad and at home to raise awareness about the coronavirus including Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa.
Most have appealed for calm even as they’ve upped their health checks at national ports of entry. In recent years many African countries have seen a large increase in travel to China of their citizens and from Chinese visitors. China now has more African students than the United States or the United Kingdom.
Following are some countries’ evacuation plans
– Germany will evacuate 90 citizens living in China’s Wuhan region.
– Morocco will evacuate 100 citizens, mostly students, from the Wuhan area.
– France expects to repatriate up to a few hundred of its 800 citizens living in the Wuhan area. Evacuees will have to spend 14 days in quarantine to avoid spreading the virus in France.
– Japan is expected to arrange charter flights as early as Tuesday for any of its citizens who wish to return from Wuhan, two sources familiar with the matter said. Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said about 430 Japanese nationals have been confirmed to be in Hubei province.
– Spain’s government is working with China and the European Union to repatriate Spanish nationals from the Wuhan area, Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said.
– The U.S. State Department said it will evacuate personnel from its Wuhan consulate to the United States and offer a limited number of seats to private U.S. citizens on a flight. Some private citizens will be able to board the “single flight” leaving Wuhan on Jan. 28 for San Francisco, it said.
– Britain is talking to international partners to find solutions to help British and other foreign nationals leave Wuhan, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
– Canada has about 167 nationals in the Wuhan area, Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said on Monday, and eight people have sought consular assistance, which is being provided. While the minister did not rule out possible evacuations, he did not indicate there were any planned at the moment, adding that each consular request would be evaluated on a “case by case basis”.
– Russia has been in talks with China about evacuating its nationals from Wuhan and Hubei province, Russia’s embassy in China said.
– The Dutch government is assessing ways to evacuate 20 Dutch citizens from Wuhan, press agency ANP reported.