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Coronavirus poses threat to Kenyans in China

Monday January 27 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Security personnel wearing protective clothing to help stop the spread of a deadly virus which began in Wuhan, stand at a subway station in Beijing on January 26, 2020. PHOTO | NOEL CELIS | AFP 

ELIZABETH MERAB
By ELIZABETH MERAB
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Kenyans in China are worried that the government is not proactive in protecting its citizens from the new respiratory virus ripping through the Asian nation.

At least 48 million people were on Saturday put under quarantine in 15 Chinese cities in the central Hubei province to stop the spread of the pneumonia-like virus.

This happened as China kicked off its traditional New Year celebrations amid a backdrop of caution and stark measures seeking to contain the novel coronavirus suspected to have originated in a live animal market in the city of Wuhan.

Since the disease can spread from human-to-human, the Chinese government ordered the lockdown in central China with a travel ban issued in areas where the virus was first encountered.

Countries already affected by the virus have begun evacuating their citizens as they scramble to protect them.

EMBASSY MUM

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The United States, France and Russia are reported to be working to evacuate their citizens in Wuhan.

Despite travel bans declared by the Chinese government, The Washington Post reports that the US on Sunday planned to fly its citizens and diplomats out via a charter flight.

France was negotiating a deal with China to see its nationals transported to Changsha, a city 100 miles away from Wuhan, by bus while Russian officials were working with the government to ensure quick repatriation of its citizens.

As this happens, Kenyan students based in different cities in China on Sunday spoke exclusively to the Nation, expressing fears that the government has not uttered a word to them.

“I haven't heard from the embassy or any information originating from the embassy,” a student in Beijing said.

STUDENTS RAISE CONCERN

It wasn’t until Saturday afternoon that a representative from the embassy, only identified as Dr Robert, reached out to a students’ group in Beijing asking for contacts of all Kenyans in Wuhan, the city which has become the epicentre of the outbreak and was the first to be placed under quarantine.

“Good afternoon, with the current outbreak of coronavirus with epicentre in Wuhan, the Kenyan Embassy would like to have contacts of all Kenyans in Wuhan,” Dr Robert’s message to the students chat group in Beijing read.

Although the students in Beijing, Wuhan and Xi’an cities said they were safe, they were concerned that officials at the embassy were “too slow”.

“We are OK though not allowed to move around unless it is really necessary, for instance to buy food where, even then, one should be in a face mask,” said a student in Guazhoung University of Science and Technology. There are close to 100 students in Wuhan.

The Nation will not reveal the identities of the students to protect them from victimisation as most are on Chinese government scholarships.

MOVEMENT RESTRICTED

Although the student said they have enough supply of basic needs, movement has been restricted.

“Most of us are just indoors for fear of contracting the disease. There is also the fear of running out of basics such as food, water, et cetera, because most stores are closed. With your prayers and support from our government, we hope to come out safe,” said a student in Wuhan.

With the New Year’s celebration, many of these students did not travel home but opted to remain in their respective universities to complete their projects.

“We are not many here because we are on vacation. I was not planning to go home this holiday. Although my family is worried about me, I would like to reassure them that, for now, all is well,” the student said.