Sunday, 10th December 2023

Nigerians in China seek evacuation over coronavirus

By Chukwuma Muanya and Kehinde Olatunji
14 February 2020   |   4:25 am
Some Nigerians still in China, including students, are not happy they are ‘trapped’ in the Asian country.

• Govt gets 2,000 doses of test reagents, treatment protocol
• ‘Virus outbreak just getting started outside of China’

Some Nigerians still in China, including students, are not happy they are ‘trapped’ in the Asian country.

A Nigerian student in Lanzhou University, Lanzhou city, Gansu Province, who preferred anonymity, told The Guardian in a WhatsApp message: “Actually sir we are all fine here. Though we are not allowed to go out, we live normally. The school usually checks on us everyday, checks our temperature, and always asks us to put on nose masks no matter where we are. As much as you can in a day, wash hands and avoid touching other hands, shaking people, embracing.

“Where I am in is called Lanzhou City, Gansu Province. We have more than 150 Nigerian students, not the same campus but in the same city. Actually, if the Nigerian government can evacuate us, it is still good but for me, it is somehow late because by the beginning of next month, we will be resuming lectures.”

According to him, no Nigerian has caught the virus.

“Our blood is very strong. My message for the Nigerian government is that when next this kind of situation comes up in any part of the world and it happens that Nigerian citizens could be caught in the web, the government should always learn how to be fast in action like other countries did by evacuating their people home. We are hoping to be evacuated, but it is late already.”

In another report, Nigerians in China pleaded with President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to emulate other countries like Egypt, Morocco, Sudan and Algerians by evacuating them over the deadly Coronavirus.

The Nigerians who reside in Wuhan, the epicentre of the deadly virus, said that their mood had been anxiety borne out of the fear of being infected as they were running out of essential supplies and utilities or being unable to get medical care for other ailments unrelated to the virus.

In an open letter yesterday signed by Ayodeji Adetunji, the Nigerians lamented that they were stuck in China, saying that foreigners who might want to travel out of Wuhan to their countries would require diplomatic support to leave because there were no commercial means to travel as rail, air and road travels inbound and outbound had been temporarily stopped by the Chinese government.

“The mood here is fast turning to frustration, helplessness, and despondency because of our failure to receive diplomatic support to be evacuated. The lock-down has led to a closure of all commercial means (rail, road, and air) to leave the city. The Chinese authorities through communications to the foreigners’ community in the city have asked us to contact our embassies if we choose to leave.

“Your Excellency, when this epidemic started to cause widespread panic in the city, officials at the Embassy in Beijing, and the office of the Chairman/CEO of Nigeria in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) reached out to our community. Their message to us at that time was that we should be calm that they and by extension, the Federal Government was monitoring the situation just as other countries were doing.

“However, as the situation began to worsen, we saw concrete moves from other countries to evacuate their citizens. We immediately communicated our request for evacuation to the embassy. Later, we were asked to write to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. All these we have done with hopes sky-high that we would be evacuated.

“However, Your Excellency, Mr. President, it saddens us that days and weeks have gone past, following several engagements with government, we are yet to be evacuated. We have obtained information from our Chinese friends and colleagues that normalcy may not return to Wuhan until the end of May 2020.

“This means that students amongst us cannot proceed with their academic work or research while the source of livelihood for business persons and workers receives a shocking halt.”

They expressed fear that the clean record of not been infected yet might not linger long if the infection rate of the virus did not abate.

“It is not our responsibility to allay the fears of our compatriots back home but it is our right to cry out and seek help from our government when we find ourselves in situations as precarious as this.”

But the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, yesterday dismissed reports that Nigerians in China want to be evacuated back to the country like citizens from most other countries have been flown back to their nations due to the raging killer virus in the Asian country.

Ehanire told The Guardian: “I have been in touch with the Nigerian Ambassador in China, Ahmad Baba Jidda, and no Nigerian in China wants to be evacuated. Do not believe all the rumours and lies you see online. The ambassador assured me just this afternoon that no Nigerian in China is sick with the virus and they are doing well.

“What is happening now is that they are indoors and are provided with all they need, including some protective gadgets.

They are given a number to call when they want anything. The things, including food and all other items, are given to them free of charge, paid for by the Chinese government.

“In fact, the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NiDO) in China has written a letter of appreciation to the Nigerian ambassador in China.”

The letter dated February 6, 2020, and by Acting President, NiDO China, Justina Obaoye Ajala, which was made available to The Guardian reads in part: “On behalf of Nigerians in Diaspora Organization China (NiDO China), we will like to appreciate your excellency sir for your fatherly love and support, which you have constantly shown to Nigerians in China.

“We will like to use this opportunity to say a ‘Big Thank’ for your personal donation to support Nigerians in Wuhan who are at the epidemic centre of the coronavirus outbreak.”

On the report by the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that there may be some failure rate with the tests for the coronavirus, the Minister said: “We are looking at the World Health Organisation (WHO) not the CDC. The WHO provides the direction which we follow. The Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is in Geneva, Switzerland now attending meetings on the coronavirus. The Minister of State for Health is also now in Mali attending the regional meeting for Africa.”

On any new strategy being adopted by the country to control the virus, Ehanire said: “We have received our 2,000 doses of reagent for testing of the coronavirus. The Chinese government sent doses of the reagent to African CDC from where we got the 2,000. We now have enough reagents to do a wide test. They have treated and discharged 4,700 patients. They have also sent the treatment protocol to the NCDC. We are working closely with the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria.”

Meanwhile, experts have warned that every country in the world could expect to have cases of coronavirus because the epidemic is “only just getting started” outside of China.

Chinese health bosses claim the disease may be completely eradicated by April, after the country reported its lowest number of new cases in nearly two weeks.

But a WHO official has said while the epidemic may be reaching its peak in China, it would continue to get worse for the rest of the world.

Dale Fisher, chair of the Global Outbreak Alert Response Network at the WHO, said: “It has spread to other places where it’s the beginning of the outbreak. In Singapore, we are at the beginning of the outbreak. I’d be pretty confident though that eventually every country will have a case.”

The flu-like virus has killed more than 1,300 people and infected more than 46,000, mostly in China.

Singapore has reported 50 coronavirus cases, one of the highest tallies outside China, including mounting evidence of local transmission.

Asked why there were so many cases in Singapore, Fisher said there were comparatively more tests being conducted on the island.

“We have a very low index of suspicion for testing people so…we do have higher ascertainment,” he said, but added that there was a lot about transmission of the virus yet to be understood.

Fisher’s warning came after the WHO described the outbreak as the “worst enemy you can ever imagine” and more of a threat to humanity than terrorism.

WHO’s Director General, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, said the epidemic could rumble on for more than a year and warned a vaccine could take at least 18 months to develop.

He added: “To be honest, a virus is more powerful in creating political, social and economic upheaval than any terrorist attack. It’s the worst enemy you can imagine.”

Yesterday a top Hong Kong medical official predicted the coronavirus could infect more than 60 per cent of the global population if containment methods fail.

Prof. Gabriel Leung, chair of public health medicine in the city, said on Tuesday even if the coronavirus killed just one per cent of sufferers, it could still wipe out as many as 45million people.