Rwandan students in China have shared their experiences of nervous-wrecking moments when the coronavirus outbreak was first reported and a lockdown announced later by the Chinese government.
Pax Agrippine Nubuhoro, cancelled travelling for winter holidays which she had planned during a break.
“When I first heard about the virus I was so nervous because people were dying every day. I was afraid I could be the next but now I feel safe and have peace in my heart,” the 19-year-old told the Nation Magazine in an interview.
“I felt bad because I had travel plans for my winter holidays which I had to cancel,” she said of the travel restrictions imposed on January 23.
“But soon after I realized it was a precautionary measure.”
Nubuhoro, a student at Hangzhou Normal University-Alibaba Business School in Hangzhou city-Zhejiang province, said students have been sensitized about the disease symptoms by the university administration.
For approximately a month now since the outbreak, she says students hold normal conversations like previously despite the threat.
“When going out to supermarket I wear a mask and I wash my hands regularly. I also avoid [unessential] movements and stay hydrated. We are able to get daily needs from the school supermarket and through online platforms,” she said.
While many countries evacuated their nationals from China following the coronavirus outbreak, Rwanda is among the countries that have not.
Asked whether they felt abandoned by the government, Nubuhoro said no.
“We never felt abandoned because our embassy in Beijing remains close to us with regular communication as well as moral support. When you express your concerns you are assured of positive response,” she said.
The Government early in February put in place a coronavirus helpline for Rwandan nationals in China and particularly in Hubei Province (China) who need assistance.
Rwandans were advised to contact Rwanda’s embassy in Beijing or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kigali.
In the interview, Nubuhoro calms her family in Rwanda about her safety.
“The message for my family and friends out there in Rwanda is to rest assured that I am healthy and safe. Continue to pray for me and China. I like how China responded to the virus …like on the education part we are going to have online courses to continue our studies inspite of the virus.”
Theogene Tuyishimire, another student said despite being scared initially, he too now stands firm.
He said though physical contact was limited he keeps in touch with both family and friends via social media platforms.
“I do believe that there is no permanent situation and the best part of it God is in control. Pray for China, pray for the world,” the 22-year-old said.
Tuyishimire has been sensitized on coronavirus by the university, as well as both Governments of Rwanda and China.
He said he is able to get basic needs but of course not as usual, owing to the current situation.
Being assured of Rwanda government’s support is comforting to many students, he said.
According to information from Rwandan embassy in Beijing, there are about 2,000 Rwandans in China about 95% of whom are students.
“I think initially people were in panicky mode understandably so because of the rising number of confirmed cases until the government of China put in place measures to control movement and restrict contact. But when you talk to students at the moment on how they are coping now they tell you that they are feeling safer,” Rwandan Ambassador to China, James Kimonyo, told Nation Magazine.
He revealed that the embassy regularly calls the students of different groups to inquire about their welfare, existence of masks, and how they are coping with the situation.
“Chinese authorities have been able to support our students to stay safe and get their basic needs. We advise the students to adhere to precautionary measures put in place to control the spread of coronavirus.”
For Sharon Ngutete Kangwagye, the initial nervousness was overcome by the precautionary measures that were put in place by the university and Chinese government.
“I have experienced a lockdown. As a matter of fact, my university is on lock down. It has been about a month now,” the 19-year-old said.
The student of Hangzhou Normal University- Alibaba Business School said she takes time to read about the virus in various medical journals published in China.
She said the mask has become part of life as well as avoiding crowded places.
“It is a very bad time for China because it has hit rock bottom. As a foreign student it is overwhelming to hear that the number of people who die everyday is rapidly increasing.”
She believes they will remain safe as long as they observe precautionary measures. “For our family and friends back at home, don’t worry about us for we are safe,” she said.
At the begining of March almost 91,000 cases of coronavirus were reported globally of which more than 80,000 were in China.
China’s death toll stood at about 3000, with more than 166 fatalities elsewhere.
The WHO in February had warned that the window of opportunity to contain the international spread of the epidemic was closing.
The WHO has also warned of a global shortage and price gouging for protective equipment to fight the fast-spreading virus and asked companies and governments to increase production by 40% as the death toll mounted.