Stuck in China: State ends talk on evacuation of Kenyans

Wednesday March 18 2020

Government Spokesman Cyrus Oguna addresses residents of Machang’a village in Embu on January 30, 2020 concerning the locust invasion. He says Kenyans in China have sufficient provisions to help them last through the lockdown in Wuhan, China, which is battling the coronavirus. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


The government and Kenyan students in Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) outbreak, continue to engage in a war of words over getting the latter home safely.

In the latest episode, while the government insists it is doing everything to ensure the students live comfortably during the ongoing lockdown, the students, including two who are expectant, say not much has been done.

As the death toll from the novel coronavirus continues to soar, hopes of Kenya evacuating its citizens also dimmed as Government Spokesman Cyrus Oguna said the students were better off in Wuhan City.

He insisted the government was addressing the matter objectively. However, he said the option of bringing them home was not completely off the table, but cited some apprehensions with the move, such as the risk of in-flight infection.

“If we were to put them together and in the event one is infected, then it means all of them will be exposed. In your own mind and thinking, where are they better off? Let’s be rational. We’re not doing things based on what others are doing,” Mr Oguna said.



About 100 Kenyans are stuck in the Chinese city, 91 of them students. Nine artistes, said to have travelled to Wuhan for an entertainment activity, are also caught up.

“We’re aware there are two expectant Kenyans and they’ve been receiving medical services. They have the necessary support and are in good health,” he said in a briefing on Thursday.

To make their stay liveable, Mr Oguna said on Wednesday that the government would disburse Sh1.3 million for their upkeep.

He added that Sh500,000 worth of provisions from the Chinese government was being processed.

The move follows anxious appeals from the Kenyans, who are confined to their residences and are unable to procure groceries.

The government added that their parents are being offered psycho-social support while students are getting the same via WeChat, a social networking site like WhatsApp.


Some students who spoke to the Nation via WhatsApp said that although they appreciate the government’s aid, they prefer to be brought back home, where they can find peace of mind.

“The situation here is very tense and, even though the government says it will give us money for upkeep, I don’t think that will be of any help to us. We cannot buy food or any other thing physically or online due to the lockdown,” a student said.

The death toll from the virus has reached 2,118 after 114 new deaths were reported.