When it was announced in December 2019 that a new virus, the Coronavirus had started to affect citizens in Wuhan city in China, there was widespread worry that the world was about experience another epidemic similar to the bird flu epidemic that spread across Asia and threatened the health of the world. As a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the virus, the Chinese government put the entire province of Wuhan under quarantine, restricting movement in and out of the city and separating people infected with the virus from healthy citizens. Trapped within the quarantine are Nigerian students and immigrants who live and work in Wuhan.
In that time, other countries with nationals in the Wuhan city have arranged for their citizens to be evacuated and given the best treatment in the event they have contracted the Coronavirus. The Nigerian ministry of health however has recommended that the citizens and immigrants living in Wuhan, and in China as a whole accept the quarantine and ride out the epidemic.
This is incredibly callous of the Nigerian government, even though we cannot pretend that this is unexpected. Ever since the country successfully repelled the Ebola virus and medical professionals gave their lives to prevent its spread our health care system has been in decline, with medical health professionals immigrating to other countries and the government refusing to invest in local healthcare.
There are approximately 50 Nigerian students living in Wuhan, a number that can easily be evacuated if the Federal government was serious about preserving the lives of these citizens. But that doesn’t mean the government has ignored them completely. The Nigerian ambassador to China sent a grant of 20,000 Chinese yuan ($2,870) to be shared between the 50 students, a mere pittance considering the quarantine has led to a hike in the prices of essential foods and services within the city. It also doesn’t answer the fundamental request of the Nigerian residents in Wuhan, which is evacuation.
Edwin Okolo is an author and journalist who has worked with YNaija, TheNativemag and the Naked Convos.