Coronavirus: Life of Ugandans in the ghost city of Wuhan

Thursday February 13 2020

A view of the Yangtze River in Wuhan, China's

A view of the Yangtze River in Wuhan, China's central Hubei province on January 28, 2020, amid a deadly virus outbreak which began in the city. PHOTO BY HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP 


As you complain about eating the same food daily or how bored you are doing the same thing, this turns out to be the life of students in Wuhan, China, the epicentre of coronavirus outbreak.
Many students the reporter spoke to on phone describe the situation as a maximum security prison but with access to the Internet.
A big number of the affected students are not willing to engage media. A Ugandan student living in Wuhan, who preferred anonymity following the warning by their university officials against speaking to the media, says life under quarantine is unbearable.

“We do not have a normal day routine of sleeping at 10pm and waking up at 7am because all we think about is keeping safe from the virus,” he says.
As it clocks morning, Henry a medical student has a monotonous routine of watching television, checking out both local and international online news sites for the latest updates about the virus, besides eating and sleeping.
“We are not allowed to move on the streets. Sometimes I wake up with hope of reading in the news that my government has decided to evacuate us but I am still waiting,” he says.

The situation in Wuhan is not any different from Guilin, Guangxi Province.
A Ugandan civil engineering student, who only identified himself as Derrick, currently quarantined at a school dormitory, says there is Chinese police outside their residence to make sure that not one leaves the premises.
“Everyone is locked in their rooms. I stay in the school dormitory, it was locked and no one is actually meant to move out,” Derrick explains.
He adds: “So your life is in one place, you are not left to breathe and get fresh air, you are just in that isolation which is very stressful. There are days you sleep the whole day and get tired. It is hard to be productive.”

Derrick reveals that every once a week items they need are delivered to them by some specific unknown people.
“We order food once a week because that is when shops open. We just send in lists of groceries we need and there are people who were tasked to get us all that stuff, they bring it up to our doors,” he says.
“With the lockdown, most of the items have gone bad yet some items are out of stock in the markets.”

The engineering student says sometimes groceries delivered such as tomatoes are not fresh which has forced many of them to opt for snacks.
Travelling is equally hectic with no inland flights in China, according to students we interacted with in Guilin, Guangxi Province.
Students who are not in Wuhan are only allowed to leave school after seeking permission from police.
A student notifies the school which informs the police to be granted a travel document.

However, Derrick says students in Wuhan are not allowed to move to other cities as most of his friends who attempted to do so have failed as no train goes to or leaves the city.
Ugandan students in China using the hashtag #EvacuateUgandansInWuhan have constantly demanded evacuation.


Many parents with children in China claim the government is afraid of offending the Chinese government which insists that everything is under control.
On Tuesday, the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, ordered government to present to the House a comprehensive evacuation mechanism to help Ugandans in China amid coronavirus outbreak yesterday in vain.
However, government promised to deliver it later.