Thursday, October 29, 2020

Motswana trapped in Wuhan speaks out

A Motswana businessman trapped the coronavirus epicentre of Wuhan this week broke his silence about his ongoing ordeal.

The sickly Wuhan City in China, plagued by Coronavirus which is claiming lives on a daily basis, continues to have its back against the wall as the outbreak rapidly swells. 

Earlier this week the World Health Organization (WHO) said a vaccine for the coronavirus could be ready in 18 months, as the UN health body announced that the official name for the virus would be COVID-19.

A Botswana citizen, Thato Tshambane, reached out to the Sunday Standard to narrate his nightmare. In a Whatsapp interview, he starts off by saying: “I am in Wuhan China, ground zero of the nCov.”

He works in the Food and Beverage industry, and is a joint owner of a bar called Monster in the heart of Wuhan city.

He says since the start of the pandemic they have had to close shop for safety reasons. 

“The situation has become very desperate here, where initially government advised that we would be closed for just a week and the next thing foreign governments are evacuating students and teachers out of the city in a mad rush.” He writes.

The total number of deaths in mainland China was 1,016, the National Health Commission said on Tuesday, while 42,638 infections have been reported. The vast majority of deaths and infections are in Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province.

Two deaths have been recorded outside mainland China – one in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines.

At least 25 countries have confirmed cases and several nations have evacuated their citizens from Hubei.

Tshambane says it has gotten even worse since the Botswana government through Minister announced that they will keep observing the situation but without any sign of them making a plan to get them to safety. 

According to Reuters, A growing number of countries around the world are evacuating or planning to evacuate diplomatic staff and citizens from parts of China hit by the new coronavirus. Some of these countries are the United States of America, Canada, Britain, Ukraine, Singapore, Philippines, Uzbekistan, New Zealand, Taiwan, France, The Netherlands, Italy, Russia, Spain, Kazakhstan, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. 

Tshambane says: “The streets are empty, all stores are closed, residential areas are policed and all tenants locked indoors overnight with strict conditions to only be allowed outside once a week.” 

“Hospitals have been full since beginning of February as even more people get infected despite the Chinese government efforts. The government has now resorted to drastic measures like building make shift hospitals and now moving patients into empty student hostels especially at the medical campuses, which is a bit risky considering the proximity to other students still on campus,” he states.

Tshambane says he talks to his family everyday which helps him cope with the situation.

“It’s the first time I’ve been involuntarily detained. The only other thing that keeps me busy is calling different Parliament members and asking them questions about our situation.” He says. 

He reveals that he faces a new challenge of hiked prices and a shortage of supplies at the shops. Noting that the city has had a shortage of face masks for some time now.

“Masks are harder to find than milk, with nearby pharmacies forced to close shop a few weeks back. As for milk itself it’s a 50/50 in supermarkets, if you are there early enough you can find it but even if you do it’s doubled in price as with all products.” He notes.

He shared screenshots of his Whatsapp conversations with some members of parliament with this publication.

“It seems their only answer is that they aren’t responsible and the orders come from the top, I’m yet to get feedback from the President’s office either.” He says.

He also noted that it is scary going to shops because instead of avoiding public spaces they are forced into them in order to get supplies. 

“I wonder how they screen the staff working in the stores, god bless them. You really never know what’s bound to happen, too many things change overnight without warning.” He writes. 

He ended off by saying: “Overall it’s horrible, and I can try to empathize with our own spokespersons in parliament but it’s really not ok that we have practically been abandoned. Botswana cabinet members can try to hide behind the bureaucracy but it’s clear that they have lost the plot. All I’d like to say is that there are around 30 Batswana still trapped in Wuhan, the only way out is if the government charters an airplane and put us in an isolated camp and have doctors check our conditions for two weeks just like every other country is doing. If we stay here any longer, we will surely be infected. Projections show this crisis continuing till end of April.”

There was a recent scare in Botswana when five people were put in isolation as they were suspected of having symptoms of the novel coronavirus. However laboratory test results came back negative.

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