Covid-19 evacuation: I can’t wait to see my mom, says SA student in WuhanImage: UKAID

Covid-19 evacuation: I can’t wait to see my mom, says SA student in Wuhan

News & Features

After two months in constant lockdown, with the ever-persistent fear of being infected with the coronavirus, a Free State student can’t wait to return to South Africa – even if it means spending 21 days in quarantine.

“I have graduated in January and I cannot wait to see my mom. I am scared every day of getting this virus,” a South African student waiting to be evacuated from Wuhan in China said.

“The news that they are moving patients who are in recovery to my school [in Wuhan] for further quarantine makes me even more scared. “The past two months have been very hard. Since the time that we were first made aware of the outbreak we have been in lockdown. Our school gates are closed. Nobody can go in or out. We can’t even go to the shops when we want to. The schools go to buy food and then we have to buy it
from them at a high price.

“Our movements are restricted and we can only move around our dormitory. That is four buildings and one room that has been converted into a small shop. It has been incredibly hard,” said the student, whose name Maverick Citizen is withholding to protect her identity. The South African government announced on Sunday that it would start repatriating asymptomatic South Africans from Wuhan in China, considered to be the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak.

On Sunday, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said there are about 151 South Africans in Wuhan who wish to be repatriated. “Amongst these are students who have completed studies and students whose studies were interrupted by the lockdown.”

He said asymptomatic South Africans who wish to return will be flown back on a chartered aircraft and put under strict quarantine for 21 days at a secret location in South Africa. Last Thursday the Chinese government said, “The decision made by the SA government is understandable to address the anxiety and concern of its citizens and families resulting from over one month of quarantine in a city far away from their motherland.

“We would also like to express our gratitude to all the SA citizens and students now in China, including those who are about to be evacuated back to SA, for their understanding, cooperation, support, sacrifice and contributions to our effective control and prevention efforts against the epidemic in China.”

The student said they had received a message from the South African Consular Incident Command Centre asking them to complete a form with their personal details and to supply a copy of their passports if they want to be repatriated. The deadline for this was Monday. “Please be advised that no definite date has been set for the repatriation but please ensure that you are able to travel at short notice,” the notice reads. The message also asks South Africans to liaise with other compatriots in Wuhan to make sure all who want to leave submit the
information.

The student said they had also received a notice informing them that 1,000 rooms on their university campus would be reserved for a quarantine observation site. The site has been earmarked for patients who are being discharged from hospital but need further quarantine and observation. The site is not in use yet.

According to a university notice sent to students, a link to the university’s East Campus has been closed off and there will only be a single access and entrance road.
“Dear students,” the notice reads. “The dark clouds cannot stop the rising sun. The epidemic cannot stop the footsteps of spring. We look forward to the end of this epidemic.”

The Free State government has called a meeting for 10am this morning of the parents of students at the Wuhan University and the Hubei University of Technology to discuss the repatriation mission. Back home in Bloemfontein, the student’s mother’s voice breaks as she speaks about her daughter. “My heart has been sore every day. She has just graduated. I know there is a meeting tomorrow morning at 10am. I will go hear what they have to
say.
“I haven’t seen her for two years. I worry every single day. What will I do if she gets ill there? I know it sounds strange but I will feel better if she is in the country. It doesn’t matter where. As long as I can take a taxi just to
be close to her.”