Thais in Wuhan living under shadow of deadly virus

Thais in Wuhan living under shadow of deadly virus

Students worry about dwindling stocks of food and face masks, writes Thana Boonlert

Street view after Wuhan government announced to ban non-essential vehicles in downtown area to contain coronavirus outbreak, on the second day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China January 26, 2020. cnsphoto via REUTERS.
Street view after Wuhan government announced to ban non-essential vehicles in downtown area to contain coronavirus outbreak, on the second day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China January 26, 2020. cnsphoto via REUTERS.

The fate of Thai students in Wuhan hangs in the balance after authorities locked down the city in central China to control the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus, preventing Thailand from evacuating 64 of its nationals.

"The whole city has come to a halt. The transport system is shut down, but fortunately I can still find food and water. However, we can't risk going outside [my university]," Tiwakorn Wuttipan, a Thai student at Wuhan University, told the Bangkok Post on Monday.

Mr Tiwakon, who is pursuing a master's degree, is one of 49 students in Wuhan, which has been shut to contain a pandemic whose source has been traced to a local market selling bushmeat. Among the 15 other Thais trapped in Wuhan are workers and tourists.

Mr Tiwakorn dismissed rumours that Wuhan was now a ghost town, saying that residents were merely refusing to leave their homes or had left for the New Year break.

"The outbreak of the virus coincided with the Lunar New Year and the winter break, so some people had already returned home [to families elsewhere in China]," he said.

Mr Tiwakorn said at first the situation had thrown him into a panic because he is stranded in a risk area, but he and his friends have been reassured by constant contact with the Thai embassy in Beijing.

"As far as I know, Thais in Wuhan want to go home. However, Chinese and Thai authorities must put in place measures, like screening, for public safety because we don't know if we will contract or spread the virus," he said.

Mr Tiwakorn said he is following the advice of authorities and avoiding crowded places.

"Like other students, I wear a face mask when going out to buy food and household items. I take it off only when I return to my room. My university is also looking after students by providing food, disinfecting our dorms, and handing out face masks. Convenience stores at my university are still open," he said.

Meanwhile, Wannaporn Panyawai, a student at Wuhan's China University of Geoscience, said she and her friends fear that stocks of food, water, drugs and face masks will run out in two weeks.

''Authorities have told students not to leave the university unless it is necessary, and have put thermal screening in place and given out masks. However, each of us only got one mask because stocks are limited and they cannot be bought from shops. The Thai embassy in Beijing also contacted us and set up a WeChat group for communication. However, we need more face masks or evacuation because we are trapped in the city where the virus originated," she said.


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