The 20 medicos from Kerala, who were trapped in Wuhan after the Chinese city was locked down following the spread of coronavirus, are safe and hope that they would be able to return home soon.
The students from Kerala are part of the 46-member Indian team of medicos pursuing their studies in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province with a population of 11 million.
After reports of 26 deaths and over 800 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection came from Wuhan, the deadly outbreak had created widespread anxiety and panic among people.
"The Indian Embassy is helping us in all possible ways. We are all safe and fine," one of the students from Kerala told Onmanorama.
The Indian embassy in Beijing has set up hotline numbers for Indians in Hubei province and has been in touch with authorities in Beijing and Wuhan to ensure uninterrupted food supply and to monitor the situation.
According to the students, even though it's the otherwise crowded Chinese Lunar New Year time, the cities sport a gloomy air due to travel restrictions, sealed off towns, scare of outbreak, deserted roads and almost nil business. After announcing a travel lockdown on Wuhan, the Chinese government has suspended public transportation services in cities of Wuhan, Huanggang, Ezhou, Zhijiang, Lichuan, Chibi, Xiantao and Qianjiang. These cities are home to several Keralites who live here for studies, research and business.
Feroz Basheer, an engineer who lives in Zhejiang province, where 26 cases are confirmed, says that the Chinese government doesn't let any situation of panic arise. "In my city alone, six persons are reportedly infected. Many shopping malls are closed down and there are no people on the streets. Buses and other public transport are empty. If anyone is out, they are all sporting masks. And the price of masks are six to 10 times higher now. These are the visible impact. And the government will never let out any scary news or numbers to avoid panic," says the Thiruvananthapuram native, who is settled there for nearly 20 years. His wife Esther is a Chinese national. "She too isn't worried. It has been raining for the past three days and we have been staying indoors."
Syama Lenus, a doctoral student in material science at the Xi'an Jiangtong University, has been hearing rumours about two suspected cases of coronavirus infection in the city she lives. "The roads are all deserted. People are staying indoors. Wuhan is sealed off. There are strict instructions to stay indoors as much as possible. We haven't gone out in two days," she says.
The Kochi native has been in China since September 2019 on a Chinese government scholarship. "There are no other Keralites in our university. There are many Tamilians on postdoctoral and living here with their families. Since it's New Year vacation from January 15 to February 14, there is no one around in the university. But the vacant roads are unusual. The spring festival is usually full of celebrations. The outbreak has affected the New Year mood. No one is even talking about it," says Syama, who is, however, hopeful of containing the situation. "The Chinese government is very strong and committed to protecting the lives of people. They will take care of these matters. The university is also very supportive. There's no reason to worry."
Aneena Nargees, who hails from Malappuram, is a fourth-year MBBS student in Ningbo University and lives in a hostel at Ningbo city in Zhejiang province. She too feels that the situation is not scary as it looks, "All affected cases are in some way connected to Wuhan. Five cases of infection have been reported so far in Ningbo city; yesterday, it was three, which means that the virus is spreading and it's being effectively contained under proper medical supervision. So, there's no need to panic, I feel."
During winter vacations, the university is usually desolate. Students would be at their hometowns to celebrate New Year and the climate too is very adverse. Aneena is part of the two batches of MBBS students who stayed back in the university to attend the coaching classes for the upcoming examinations. However, they are planning to leave the city very soon. "That's not because of fear of disease outbreak, but isolation. If more shops shut down and transport services are suspended, we would be cutoff. We are planning to return to India until everything is back to normalcy," she adds.