By Benny Geteng in Rabaul
A Papua New Guinean student leader in the Chinese city of Wuhan says students fear for their lives with the increasing number of coronavirus infected people and are calling on the PNG authorities to intervene.
Chris Tarkap, president of the PNG Students Association in Wuhan (PNGSIWA) and who is on a Masters in Business Administration course at Wuhan University, said while most locals were taking their normal Chinese New Year break, most PNG students remained in Wuhan.
From New Ireland province, Tarkap said nine students in Wuhan had travelled back to PNG for the winter break.
“There is an estimated 30 PNG students enrolled in different universities in Hubei province and Wuhan. So far there haven’t been any cases of coronavirus affecting our PNG students,” he said.
Tarkap said the Hubei provincial government had directed all buses and train stations to be on lockdown. Students were warned not to travel out to crowded areas like parks, clubs, and shopping malls as precautionary measures.
“We are trying our best to stay safe indoors and we hope the students who have travelled home for holidays will come back safe without getting infected,” he said.
“We understand there is no vaccine at the moment, that is why most students are so scared and are taking all the precautionary measures to avoid being infected.”
Social media information
Tarkap explained that the most helpful information about the virus was readily available on WeChat and other social media outlets.
“Just last week the situation was stable but things have drastically changed during the weekend which caused everyone to panic. Some of us have never faced a situation like this before.
“Our university authorities are helpful. They are working very hard to contain the situation and are guiding us.
“We have been advised to wash our hands often and wear our masks every time we move out of our rooms.”
“We have been urged to take care of ourselves by following preventive measures.”
“Generally, our PNGSIWA students are fine, well alerted about this issue, and are taking the required measures to avoid being infected. However, we are really scared.”
At least 361 people have died from coronavirus infection – including one in the Philippines, the first outside China – and 17,205 have been infected.
Benny Geteng is a PNG freelance journalist writing for EMTV News.