No evacuation for Samoan students in China

The Samoan Government says it has no plans to evacuate Samoan students studying in China, as other countries begin to evacuate their citizens amid the rapid spread of the coronavirus. 

Peseta Noumea Simi, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (M.F.A.T.), said  students will remain in Wuhan under the care of the authority of their universities alongside 70-plus other Pacific students.

The virus' spread reached confirmed cases in 19 countries on Thursday.

A total of ten Samoan students are enrolled to study in the central Chinese city of Wuhan but only six have remained over the lunar new year break from studies. 

"Their situation remains carefully monitored and supported by the Samoa Embassy in Beijing until there is advice from the Chinese authorities on any changes to the current 'lock down' of the city," Peseta said.

The novel coronavirus, named 2019-nCoV, was first identified in Wuhan, the capital of China's Hubei province. 

A Samoan student based in Wuhan said it seems safer to "ride out" the virus than to leave the city. 

Other Governments, including Australia and New Zealand have begun flying their citizens out of China as a precautionary measure. 

The Australian Government will detain its nationals on Christmas Island, one of the outer-reaches of Australian territory where they will undergo 14 days of quarantine. 

A planeload of American citizens from Wuhan province landed in the United States on January 29. 

"The Chinese government is also deploying human and financial resources to Wuhan to contain the virus from spreading further," she said.

"The advice to everyone [is] to be patient and not panic."

The student, who spoke to the Samoa Observer on the condition of anonymity because of fear of repercussions for their academic scholarship, also wanted to correct  reports that food supplies were running low. 

"There's more than enough," the student said.

"Shops are continually stocking up their shelves and there are hotlines established if anyone requires anything they cannot find."

Though the students are allowed to leave their homes the Samoan Embassy in China has advised all students in China to stay indoors and only go outside when needed and always wear a mask.

Asked what the environment is like in Wuhan as the death toll around China exceeds 100, the student said it has finally calmed down:

"The panic from the first few days is fading. All the students in Wuhan are keeping in close contact and checking on one another. We do not stay together because some live outside of school and some live in the dormitories. 

"The embassy has been very helpful and have advised they are willing to provide whatever support is needed."

Radio New Zealand reported on Thursday that Pacific Islands Forum says there are no arrangements in place to evacuate Pacific students studying in China under its scholarship programme. 

Students who returned home for the holiday are being advised not to return to China until advised to do so.

Papua New Guineans studying in Wuhan and Solomon Island students in neighbouring provinces told RNZ that they fear for their lives and want to be flown out of the country. 

Since the outbreak, the virus has killed 132 with more than 6000 confirmed cases worldwide.

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