The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Novel COVID-19 (formerly, Coronavirus) as a global Health Emergency and world’s number one Enemy. On this note, NUGS-China is declaring the situation as a National Predicament based on facts and figures coming in from our members and reliable health reports from the Chinese Health Ministry.
On Thursday, February 13, China recorded more than 15,000 new infections with over 200 addition to the death toll, raising the national tally of the infected to more than 60,000, with about 1,350 deaths (China Daily report). Out of the total infected people, about 48,206 of them are confirmed cases in Hubei Province with more than 38,000 coming from Wuhan alone. Among the figures for the lives lost, more than 1100 occurred in Hubei Province (more than 900 for Wuhan alone as at February 13). The situation is not getting any better for both residents and Ghanaian students in China.
On Tuesday, February 11, the WHO revealed that the shortest time to find a vaccine for the virus would be in 18 months. With all Universities locked down, if the control mechanism of the Chinese authorities to contain the virus continue to experience delayed- expected-outcome, Ghanaian students are expected to be in their rooms for the said duration.
There are over 6,400 Ghanaian students in China with more than 400 of the said number currently residing in the Hubei Province, the epicenter of the disease. Wuhan alone has more than 170 Ghanaian students currently locked-down in their various campuses.
NUGS-China acknowledges the efforts of the Chinese Government in helping to provide some basic needs for the students in distress through some of the colleges of international education in these Universities. However, reports received from the student leadership in Wuhan is that;
- not all the universities are providing free food as stated by Dr. Zhou Yuenhan, spokesperson to the Chinese Ambassador to Ghana.
- a greater number of these Students still lack some necessities. One particular meal is served for them for breakfast, lunch, and supper throughout the entire week.
- some Universities like Wuhan University and the Wuhan University of Business are turning the Empty Chinese student dormitories into Quarantine centers
- there have been 74 confirmed cases in Wuhan University (24 of this number are international students).
- students are undergoing mental trauma as a result of the disquieting situation
To address these issues in the best interest of all Ghanaian students in China, the Ghana Mission in Beijing initiated a 48-hour interval periodic meetings with the leadership of the Union and the Chapter Executives of the cities in the epicenter to discuss the updates and short term needs of the students, particularly those in the epicenters from Friday, January 31, 2020. In these meetings chaired by the Ambassador, H.E. Edward Boateng, Evacuation of the students in Hubei province had always been paramount while still considering the provision of adequate logistics to our other members outside the epicenters.
Until Monday, February 10, 2020, the leadership of the Union had been assured in an earlier meeting by Dr Nsiah-Asare, Special Adviser to the Office of the Vice President, that a quarantine facility had been made ready to receive the potential Evacuees. Moreover, the Ghana Mission in Beijing had intimated earlier that they had acquired an aircraft through advanced talks with an airline company, and had submitted invoices and documentation to the Government (the technical team in charge of the evacuation) pending their approval. Notwithstanding, we had been made aware of some challenges the Evacuation process was facing, such as a third country for refueling after departure from Wuhan.
To our dissatisfaction, the Mission reaffirmed the Government’s position of ‘No Evacuation in the Interim’ during Wednesday’s (February 12, 2020) meeting as earlier hinted in the previous Monday’s meeting. They reiterated that evacuation was not entirely off the table and that they were considering other options in consultation with the relevant stakeholders. The reasons given by the Government were that, Ghana is not ready in terms of facilities, logistics, and adequately trained medical personnel to deal with any infections among the potential evacuees (which is in contrast with what Dr. Nsiah-Asare had said in the earlier meeting). Moreover, WHO and the leadership of ECOWAS were against mass evacuation from China to the sub-region. Also, per advice from experts, the right time had not come for a mass evacuation of the students, and that they were still monitoring to conduct the evacuation at the right time. In the short term, the Government had instead made provision for logistics of $500 to each student in the distressed region (Hubei Province). Note, this money is not credited into the Union’s account, but would be directly paid to the students’ accounts.
The Ghana Mission had been made aware of the worrying situation of the Ghanaian students in Hubei right from the start of these meetings, hence the urgent need for evacuation. In tandem with the urgent need for evacuation, some short-term logistical needs were also addressed, which resulted in the initial RMB 50,000 given to the Union for the procurement of nose masks and other safety needs. RMB 30,000 of the said amount were given to the student leadership in Hubei province on behalf of the students there. The remaining RMB 20,000 was committed to a fund, and later used for a bulk purchase of nose masks from Ukraine for the remaining students outside of Hubei Province. The shortage of nose masks in China resulting in exorbitant price increments necessitated the order from Ukraine (These nose masks are yet to arrive in China for disbursement to every chapter).
The situation in the epicenter, however, is not stabilizing as hoped. Aside our dissatisfaction with the outcome of our discussions, the Union would want the Government of Ghana and those in decision making positions to consider the following:
- If all things stay the same, Ghanaian students in China are going to be placed under lockdown in their various universities for the next 18-months. (These students may be more useful in Ghana than their current status)
- As we speak, no Ghanaian Student is infected yet, but the situation in Wuhan and Hubei is getting more and more worrying by the day.
- Provisions for logistics are being made for the students in the ground zero with the recent $250000 sent to the Ghana mission. But how long will the Nation keep pumping these amounts to the students when all they need is to be evacuated from the danger? Can our country afford $250,000 per month for a minimum of 18 months?
- The students have consented to undergo a pre-evacuation test, and a post-evacuation quarantine of the maximum duration recommended by the WHO (this should downplay the fear of possible importation of the disease into the country.)
- Apart the 400 or more students in Hubei who are currently locked-down (unable to fly home on their own), all students from other provinces (Over 6000 students) who might not be able to endure the possible 18 months “self-quarantine” would be flying back home on their own, with or without a mass evacuation.
- The 400 students who are unable to leave the distress zone are less than the over 6000 other Ghanaians who are currently ‘at large’ and can come home anytime (whether Ghana is ready to receive them or not)
- If ‘waiting for the right time for Evacuation’ implies waiting for a Ghanaian in the distress zone to be infected first, then that would be riskier than the current situation of no infection yet.
- Ghana’s Robust health system was able to withstand a more deadly Ebola disease which affected the West African sub-region through proper surveillance and quarantine mechanisms.
Based on these underground facts and figures, the Union, believing the capacity of the Government, medical personnel and our health system to undertake the Evacuation process of these 400 students under distress, implores the Government to instead, consider making the necessary facilities ready for these students.
We reiterate that the situation of relative safety (No infections yet among Ghanaians) makes it the most appropriate time for the Evacuation process in order to limit the probability of importing the disease to affect citizens of Ghana back home. If the Government would follow the WHO protocols of evacuation, we are optimistic that none of the innocent Ghanaian citizen would be infected from these Evacuees.
We, the National Executive Committee (NEC), serving in the best interest of our apolitical Union, firmly believe that these revelations coupled with recommendations should be enough for our able-bodied Government to consider saving our brothers and sisters in the life-threatening zones while they make preparations for those traveling to Ghana on their own.
Bekoe Bernard Boamah
TEL: +86 15651898563
TEL: +86 15295776558
Emmanuel Kwasi Anhwere
TEL: +86 13107700782
Chairman- Judicial Committee
TEL: +86 15152149054
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration
Ghana’s Technical Coordinating Committee on Coronavirus
The Ministry of Health
All media outlets.