In Shanghai, some 840 kilometres from Wuhan – the epicentre of the coronavirus that is ripping through mainland China - Faith knows that she has been spared the worst of the deadly virus that has so far claimed 213 lives.
Yet she cannot help worrying about her well-being and that of hundreds of other Kenyans who are trapped in the city where the outbreak began.
“In Shanghai, we are better off because we can move,” she said yesterday. For Kenyan students stuck in Wuhan as the city fights one of the deadliest disease outbreaks in recent days, what was once an adventurous academic life in China now carries the imminent threat of peril.
Many are frustrated at the lack of an evacuation plan.
“The fear is real because we are afraid of each other,” a student who narrated his predicament to the Saturday Standard said. “It is very scary - even a little cough has us on edge,” said Faith, who works in Shanghai and only wanted to be identified only with her first name for this report.
As other countries struggled to evacuate their citizens who are still in Wuhan, Kenyans in the city are staying put, albeit under tight precautions and as worry and disease spreads.
There are 85 students who are registered by the student association in Wuhan, Jeffrey Okundi, a student in Wuhan said. There is fear there could still be others who are unaccounted for.
But even as the Chinese government remains optimistic that it is handling the situation, the stranded Kenyans are worried about their fate.
Food supplies are running low and with the city on lock-down, the clock is ticking on how long they will last in the city.
“The situation is tricky because we are running out of food. We are surviving on rations and a meal a day. We do not know how long we will last. At the moment we are all confined to our respective schools. This is the second week that transport has been suspended and not just public but all modes of transport. We are confined to the school compound and not allowed to leave,” Okundi said.
In cities across China, the usual bustle has been replaced by a tense atmosphere and empty streets. Wuhan has been described as a ghost town.
Even as far off as Shanghai, the mood has changed.
There were random temperature checks on the highways, X-ray scans on the trains and the streets have emptied out.
“You cannot go outside because you risk being arrested; 95 per cent of the city is indoors but we are better off here because at least we can go out to look for food, it is worse in Wuhan,” Faith said. The situation in Wuhan is dire. The government imposed lockdown has had residents stay put in their houses.
“We spend days in surgical masks and even have to sleep in them,” said a Kenyan student stuck in the city in Hubei Province, where 9,692 cases have been recorded.
“The entire city has turned into a ghost town. We commend the Chinese government for we believe they are doing their level best, but we need our government to also act because as their citizens, we should be their priority. They should not leave everything in the hands of the Chinese,” a student in Wuhan who wanted to remain anonymous said.
Kenya Airways has now indefinitely suspended flights to and from China after a week of sustained pressure and after the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency.
The Ministry of Health yesterday announced that tests conducted on a passenger who travelled from Guangzhou to Nairobi on Tuesday and had been quarantined at the Kenyatta National Hospital turned negative.
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