Government hasn’t contacted us, Kenyans in Wuhan say

Wednesday March 18 2020
wuhan

People wearing protective masks to help stop the spread of a deadly virus which began in Wuhan, wait next to their suitcases at the Beijing railway station in Beijing on January 27, 2020. PHOTO | NICOLAS ASFOURI | AFP

By ELIZABETH MERAB

Kenyan students in China’s Wuhan city have expressed displeasure with how the government is responding to their pleas for help amidst the ongoing global outbreak of a pneumonia-like 2019-nCoV virus.

Last evening the students, who are caught up in the epicentre of a ravaging Coronavirus outbreak, took to Twitter to dismiss the Kenyan government's claims that it has reached out to them to check on their welfare.

Hours after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a statement, students using the hashtag #kenyansinwuhan who claimed to be in the city said the embassy had not reached out to them.

“I am a Kenyan student in Wuhan at the epicentre of the Coronavirus. Yet the Kenyan embassy in Beijing has done or said nothing,” wrote Brian Njoroge.

On Monday, the ministry issued a travel warning urging people intending to travel to Wuhan to suspend their plans until the situation is contained.

Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau said that the embassy in China had issued an alert to Kenyans living there and especially those residing in Wuhan, Hubei Province, to take precautions to protect themselves and comply with measures put in place by the local authorities.

DISAPPOINTMENT

However, those affected and currently under lockdown have denied hearing from the government.

“Just disappointed by our country. Second week now in this ghost city and nothing seems to be done,” Cornelius Mulili, who said he lives in Wuhan, said.

His sentiments were echoed by Rono Kipkorir, another resident, who implied that the situation is harrowing for them.

“Our government cares little about us. I am one of those stuck here. I don't even want to describe the situation.”

Kenyan students based in different cities in China yesterday spoke exclusively to the Nation expressing their fears about the epidemic, which they say is made worse by the lack of communication.

According to the ministry, there are 85 Kenyan students in Wuhan. Additionally, there are other Kenyans in Hubei Province outside the academic community who remain vulnerable.

“We are locked inside Wuhan City so what do they mean when they say they have advised us not to go near the city? Students from other countries are already being evacuated as we watch,” said another Kenyan student in an interview with the Nation.

So far, there are no confirmed cases of the virus among China's African community.

SAFETY

Most countries have their embassies stationed in Beijing. This makes it hard for foreign governments to ensure the safety of its citizens.

It's even harder for the students, who are on scholarships sponsored by China, to speak freely as they fear losing the awards.

“I am not allowed to speak about this issue. We just send already verified information from the authorities,” a student told the Nation.

Several African governments have issued alerts to their citizens including Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, and South Africa.

Most have appealed for calm as they increase surveillance and health checks at national ports of entry.

DEATH TOLL

So far, the death toll has surged to 106 and the number of confirmed infections doubled to over 4,500.

The deadly virus, which experts believe emanated from a wild animal market in the city of Wuhan last month, has triggered a desperate containment effort by Chinese authorities.

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.

Scientists say that this new Coronavirus poses a threat because an infected person can spread it even if they do not show symptoms of the disease.

Further, one infected person can pass the virus to three other people. The incubation period is unknown but suspected to be between one and two weeks.