Ghanaian students in the epidemic-stricken Wuhan in the Hubei Province in China have renewed their appeal to the government for their evacuation.
They said they had run out of essential supplies, including nose masks, food and water, as they remained confined to their rooms in fear of the dreaded strain of coronavirus, COVID-19, which has claimed more than 1,600 lives so far.
A seven-page statement to the Daily Graphic, signed by Ms Sakimatu Issaka of the School of Environmental Studies at the China University of Geosciences (Wuhan), said, “I’m very disheartened, psychologically and emotionally unstable, and cannot focus on studies or do anything productive indoors, coupled with scarce food and health logistics. The Coronavirus does not discriminate, so neither should you. Let humanity lead. Evacuate Ghanaians in Hubei-Wuhan now!”
The dreaded coronavirus has claimed 1,600 lives, with 51,857 confirmed cases and 9,419 recoveries as of yesterday.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has suggested that it could take up to 18 months to find the relevant vaccine for COVID-19.
Ms Issaka’s appeal follows similar calls by the Minority in Parliament and the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, and after the United States, France, Japan, Australia, Morocco, Mauritania, among others, are reported to have evacuated their nationals from Wuhan.
The Ghana government has emphasised the cumbersome protocols for evacuation under such circumstances as a major impediment and provided financial support to ease the burden on the about 400 affected students.
The government has also explained that advice from WHO suggests it is counterproductive to evacuate the students, while China, which has better disease management capabilities, has assured the government of Ghana that the students are safe.
The government announced the release of a $250,000-support for Ghanaian students in Wuhan for protective items and supplies such as nose masks, food and water.
But Ms Issaka said the financial support – provided through the Ghana Embassy in Beijing – was almost worthless, given the current circumstances on the ground, stressing that “no one is willing to volunteer to go out and face ‘Mr Corona’ to buy masks, health logistics, including water, and food for the students”.
“Shortage of water, food supplies and other necessities in our rooms is making life difficult and unbearable. Most shops have run out of stock in the city, so with the money, we cannot even get anything to buy, coupled with the risk involved. My question is: why don’t the authorities use the money to buy those items and rather ship them to us?” she asked.
The government has said that it is constantly monitoring the situation and will continue to support the students, but Ms Issaka questioned how much use such financial support could be to them when it could not be used “to buy the necessary logistics due to inaccessibility”.
In any case, she said, “all schools have been shut down indefinitely, and some, including mine, have begun running online tuition.”
“So for how long must students continue to live in anxiety and uncertainty?” she asked, stressing that “a head full of fear has no space for dreams”.
Indeed, Wuhan authorities are said to be implementing strict measures – including restrictions from going out – to contain the epidemic.
These, Ms Issaka contended, did not guarantee total safety from the virus, arguing that there were infections among persons isolated in their rooms during the outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), another strain of coronavirus, also in China in 2003.
Chatting on condition of anonymity, another student in the Jiangsu Province, quite far from the disease epicentre, said the situation was as scary as a ghost plague, saying: “You don’t know how it hits you.”
Wuhan is the capital of the Hubei Province in Central China, with a population of 11 million people.
It is one of the most important cities in China’s development.
The city is famous for its convenient transportation system — one could travel to five continents from the Wuhan Tianhe International Airport by direct flight.
It has 1.3 million college and university students.
The 88 square-kilometre East Lake in Wuhan is the biggest in all Asia.