Ever since China put a ban on transportation services in several of its provinces following the outbreak of Coronavirus, there has been uncertainty and fear in the mind of Kerala native Anaz*, a fifth year medical student, who has been stranded in Wuhan City of Hubei Province of China, the epicentre of the epidemic. Like Anaz, 45 other Indian students studying in Wuhan University, have been spending sleepless nights apprehensive about what is next for them amidst the spread of infectious Coronavirus in the region.
“We are desperate. We just want to get back home before it's too late. Things here are becoming more dangerous day by day and it might be even more difficult to get out of Wuhan in the coming days than it is at present. We want help immediately,” Anaz tells TNM.
On Wednesday, China shut down transportation services in several of its provinces including Wuhan City as a means to curb the spread of disease. Foreign nationals including students have been stranded in the city ever since. Many Indian students in Wuhan had even booked flight tickets to return home, but couldn’t get out of Wuhan, because of the transportation ban.
“We are panicking. This is vacation time in the University, but as per media reports in China, it will be extended to another two months. In the present situation, we cannot even think about staying here for that long as it will be dangerous,” says Anaz.
According to The New York Times, 15 new deaths were reported in Wuhan City alone.
According to the students, they need help to cross Wuhan City and come to a province where a travel ban is not imposed.
“Officials of Indian Embassy had contacted us. Since we are more familiar with the region, they asked us what is the way to get us out. We said that it is only possible to get out of Wuhan through a specially arranged bus. By road we should reach any of the nearest provinces where there is no travel ban and can take flight from there to India,” explains Anaz who had been living in Wuhan for the past five years. As per the students, the Embassy officials have said they will try to find out if that is possible.
According to the students, among the 46 Indian students, 20 are from Kerala. Some students of the University had left Wuhan to other provinces of China before the travel ban was imposed. “They all left Wuhan in bullet trains, but we did not leave as we considered it not safe to travel so openly in the midst of the outbreak,” says one of the students stranded in Wuhan.
The students are also running on a limited food supply. “Most of us here have only food for about a week, we are not sure what to do once it's over,” Anaz says.
TNM had earlier reported that two students staying outside the university hostels, are running short of food. It has now been known that food materials were supplied to the two students by others in the hostel.
‘We were the first ones to take safety measures’
According to the students of the University, they were the first ones in Wuhan City to wear masks while going out in public as, according to them, the news about the outbreak was not officially declared by China.
“We had been following international media like BBC, and it was reported that there was an outbreak in Wuhan. Since the start of the month, students of the university had been wearing safety masks whenever we went out in public. People used to look at us curiously and we also used to wonder why they were not wearing it. But it was only later that we came to know that the news about the outbreak was only declared officially to the public much later,” says Anaz.
(*Name changed on request)