Lesotho nationals among those in virus-hit Chinese city

Staff Reporter

LESOTHO nationals are among those quarantined in the Chinese city of Wuhan where the deadly Coronavirus broke out, the Chinese Ambassador to Lesotho, Lei Kezhong, has said.

Mr Kezhong however, said there was no need for anyone to panic, adding that the Lesotho nationals and others could leave the city upon the expiry of the mandatory 14-day period of observation to ensure they were not infected with the virus which has so far claimed 722 lives in China.

As of Friday, the number of confirmed Coronavirus cases in mainland China stood at 34 546. Outside China, 270 cases had been confirmed in 25 countries, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), with two fatalities – one in Hong Kong and another in the Philippines.

On Saturday, France confirmed five new cases, bringing the total to 11. France’s Health Minister Agnès Buzyn said all of the five new cases were British nationals staying in the same chalet in the Haute-Savoie region of eastern France.

Closer to Lesotho, Botswana has reported five suspected cases of the virus and is still awaiting confirmation of tests from a South African laboratory.

Addressing the media in Maseru recently, Mr Kezhong said his government and its people had the “…capacity to effectively and ultimately overcome the epidemic”.

On 31 December 2019, the WHO was alerted to several cases of pneumonia in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. A week later, on 7 January 2020, Chinese authorities confirmed that they had identified a novel Coronavirus- a new strain that had not been previously identified in human beings.  At least 213 people in the China have died from the virus.

Lesotho’s Health ministry said in a recent statement that symptoms of the virus include a running nose, headaches, coughing, sore throat, fever, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties and a general feeling of being unwell.

The ministry said the virus can be particularly dangerous to the elderly and infants as it may affect the respiratory tract.

It is widely believed that the first Chinese nationals contracted the Coronavirus after eating infected meat of wild animals or seafood.

The Chinese ambassador said although some Chinese people’s diet included wild animals, birds and seafood, it could not be said for certain that these foods were the source of the virus as tests had not been concluded.

He said they had informed the Lesotho government of the situation in Wuhan which had several Lesotho nationals studying there.

“We are working closely with the government of Lesotho through the ministries of Health and Foreign Affairs and we have discussed the welfare among Lesotho students in Wuhan,” Mr Kezhong said.

He said the city of Wuhan and other affected areas were now quarantined and it was “not advisable” for Lesotho citizens to leave the city before the expiry of a 14-day observation period to ensure they were not infected with the virus.

He said China was working hand in hand with the WHO and the international community to contain the spread of the epidemic.  He said after identifying the virus China immediately alerted WHO and shared all the genetic information of the virus.

The Chinese ambassador said his government was working with WHO in a transparent and responsible manner and was availing all statistics concerning the outbreak.

Many countries around the world, including United States of America (USA) have restricted or banned flights to and from China.

According to Africa Report, six out of eight African airlines have suspended flights to and from China. Only Ethiopian Airlines and Air Algeria have opted to continue operating their China routes.

On his part, Mr Liam Chang from the Chinese Embassy, said the whole city of Wuhan was quarantined for an indefinite period since the Chinese government announced the outbreak of the Coronavirus on 7 January 2020. Mr Chang said only limited movement in and out of the city especially by medical personnel and suppliers of essential services were allowed to do so.

He said individuals travelling from one city to another within China had to quarantine themselves for 14 days during which time they were tested to ensure they were free of the virus.

He also said the Chinese government was doing all it could to make sure students from Lesotho and elsewhere were well catered for.

One of the students from Lesotho, Naomi Ramonono, told the BBC News on Friday that the quarantined students at Wuhan University were provided with essential such as food, gloves and breathing masks by the institution.

Asked how the students felt, Ms Ramonono said: “To be honest we are all very terrified given that we have never been in such a situation before. But thanks to our university for giving us the assurance and reinforcements that we need during this period. Staying in our rooms is not as difficult as we thought it would be as we have food and other basic utilities available”.


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