Government to send Shs222 million to students stuck in China

A man wears a face mask as he walks on a sidewalk in Beijing on Thursday. The number of deaths and new cases from China's COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak spiked dramatically on February 13 after authorities changed the way they count infections in a move that will likely fuel speculation that the severity of the outbreak has been under-reported. AFP photo

PARLIAMENT- Government has declined to yield to pressure to evacuate all Ugandans trapped in parts of China that have been hit by the deadly coronavirus has spread to over 20 countries around the world.

In a statement to Parliament on Thursday, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the Health minister said it will be against the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines for the government to evacuate the citizens from China especially students in Wuhan University, in Hobei region.

On Tuesday, Parliament asked government through the Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, to present an evacuation plan after reports that other countries had evacuated their citizens from China.

But, Dr Aceng in a statement, told Parliament that Uganda will work with the government of China through the Ugandan Mission in Beijing to provide socio-economic support to the students who are confined in Wuhan City that is under ‘’total lockdown’’.

‘’It is safe to keep those persons in Wuhan city there because the city is under lock down. Uganda does not have specialised capacity to handle coronavirus. The country is already stressed with outbreaks,” she said.

She said that government failed to charter a plane to airlift the 105 back home because there is no available connection between Beijing and Wuhan.

She said that Emirates Airlines which is still operating in Beijing, will have chartered plane only available in the next two months.

Ugandan students have been sending messages of serious concern over lack of food and other supplies after being confined in hostels.

Ms Aceng said government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is organising to wire $61000 (Shs222 million) to the students.

However, some MPs poked holes in the government statement insisting that a mechanism should be reached between China and Uganda to find a means of evacuating the students and other Ugandans before the condition escalates.

Meanwhile, a Ugandan student at Wuhan University, who spoke on condition of anonymity, to speak freely, expressed dissatisfaction with the government decision not to evacuate them because the situation worsens by the day.

“It is a terrifying situation which any caring leader wouldn’t over look. Why would government grant entry to other nationals and deny its citizens?” he wondered.

Ms Margaret Ntege whose three children are stranded in Wuhan said sending money to the students is not effective because the students cannot access any supplies after the closure of all markets.