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‘It’s like house arrest’ — Indians in coronavirus-hit Wuhan desperate to return home

It is mostly foreigners who are left behind in quarantined Wuhan as local residents had travelled out to celebrate Chinese New Year, students tell ThePrint.

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New Delhi: Empty streets, closed shops and deserted bus stations — the usually bustling city of Wuhan in China has virtually turned into a ghost town since it was locked down on 23 January after the coronavirus outbreak.

Over 250 Indians are now stuck in Wuhan, an industrial city in central China. Among them are students, research scholars and professionals.

“We were informed one week (from now) before that the coronavirus is very dangerous for us. We aren’t able to go out (and) no shops are open,” 22-year-old Mariyam Khan, a second-year medical student studying in a Wuhan university, told ThePrint over the phone.

Khan said she has been cloistered in her hostel room with some of her Indian classmates. The nearest grocery store, which is miles away, is shut and the students have to depend on the university for food.

“The Indian embassy is trying its best and they are calling us regularly. We can’t live our life normally. We all want to come back to India because we are very afraid,” she said.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in China has crossed 4,500

Chinese President Xi Jinping has described the epidemic as a “demon” and said “China cannot let this demon hide”.

Also read: Four Pakistani students in Wuhan diagnosed with coronavirus

‘Not expecting much help from Chinese authorities’

The Indian embassy in Beijing has set up three hotlines for Indians living in China to answer their queries about the virus.

The hotlines have come as a boon for several Indians who were exasperated over the lack of information in English.

Cancer researcher Manisha Das, who is from Guwahati, said she was only able to access information about the outbreak from her friends and social media groups.

“They (the Chinese government) have given some hotline numbers, which don’t help as the operators only speak in Chinese. So it is difficult for the foreigners living here because they can’t speak in English and we don’t understand Chinese. I am not expecting much help from the authorities,” she told ThePrint.

According to Das, it is mostly the foreigners who have left behind in Wuhan because of the lockdown as most of the local residents had travelled out of the city for the 25 January Lunar New Year, which is the Chinese New Year.

The Chinese government has announced an extension of the Lunar New Year holiday until 2 February because of the outbreak.

Das said there’s fear among them that food supplies could soon run out as the residents are confined to their homes.

“My friends and I are just at home, keeping everything tidy. As of now, this is the situation over here. It is terrible, because it’s like being under home arrest. I don’t know how we are going to tackle all of this,” she said.

“The Indian embassy is keeping track of all the foreign students, especially those living in Wuhan. They also called me and asked me if I want to stay here,” Das added.

Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar Tuesday said the government is in touch with its Chinese counterpart as it is planning to send a plane to evacuate Indians stuck in Wuhan.

“Our efforts are on to bring them back. It will take some days. I urge people to trust the government on this,” said Jaishankar.

Also read: Modi govt advises homoeopathy, Unani to prevent coronavirus that has no known cure yet


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