Namibia: Coronavirus Lockdown ... Nam Students Give Account On Living Under Lock and Key

Kaurumbua Koujo, a Namibian student in China's Wuhan city, says everyone has been in a state of panic since the coronavirus broke out at one of the city's marketplaces early this month.

Wuhan, the capital of China's Hubei province, has a population of 11 million people.

The virus was first detected on 31 December 2019 at Wuhan and traced back to one of the city's many markets where all kinds of meat, including cat, chicken, marmot and other wild animals, as well as seafood, are sold.

The market has since been closed for disinfection since the begining of this month. However, this did not stop the spread of the virus, which has since infected people across 20 of China's 23 provinces while claiming approximately 20 lives, according to international media reports.

The deadly virus has also spread to Thailand, Japan, Korea, Singapore, the Philippines, the United States, Australia and Mexico, among others. However, the virus has not been detected in Africa yet.

Following the World Health Organisation's directive, Namibia on Friday issued alerts to all 14 regions to strengthen surveillance to detect, diagnose and contain the coronavirus should it rear its ugly head.

Speaking to The Namibian yesterday, Koujo recounted moments when it finally dawned on him that the virus could end a life.

He had just started his master's degree at the Wuhan University this year and was still settling in when the virus hit his city.

"Being quarantined is a term that, growing up at the village, we associated mostly with cattle when we could not sell them because they were under quarantine. Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined that I would be subjected to it," said Koujo.

The fact that the virus was spreading quickly meant that the transportation system, railways and airports had to be shut down, with no one allowed to come or leave Wuhan since 23 January.

He said most hospitals are overwhelmed with people rushing to get tested should they show any sign of the symptoms.

"In some cases, such patients are ending up being infected with the coronavirus," said Koujo.

He said shops have been closed and people have to walk long distances to find food, as some taxi drivers would not pick up anyone for fear of being infected.

According to him, to stock up, he and others would walk long distances in quiet streets that carry the aura of an impending apocalypse.

He said they have to wear masks everywhere like one would carry an inhaler in case they have an asthma attack.

Koujo, who lives at the university's residence, said there was a further quarantine where no one is allowed to leave the campus.

Recounting one moment when a roommate asked for eggs, Koujo said he realised that food scarcity might become a problem under the lockdown.

He said fellow Namibians have been active on China's social media, WeChat, with many people expressing fear, anxiety and others suffering from panic attacks.

"The uncertainty and lack of engagement and proper feedback are definitely causing unrest with Namibians in Wuhan. At this hour, we do not expect our embassy to tell us that we should put in a request for this and that. We want to hear a plane is on the way. I understand that some countries have already started mobilising their nationals for evacuation from Wuhan," said Koujo.

He said he has been carrying on thanks to Bible verses his family sends while his perspective on how easy death comes to all, is heightened by his experience.

He encouraged others facing the same predicament to keep calm and use the lockdown period to their advantage.

He expressed hope that the Namibian government would evacuate its citizens from China.

Ambassador Elia Kaiyamo yesterday urged all Namibians to obey directives from the Chinese government, especially in Wuhan concerning the coronavirus outbreak.

He posted advice on his Facebook wall, urging Namibians to remain calm and to contact authorities should there be any challenges.

"We must stay calm all the time and no panic is needed for now," said Kaiyamo.

The ambassador said from the 500 plus Namibian students in China, none has been reported as infected yet.

"Those who may need to travel to China for whatever reason must consult their travel agents (as well as our health authorities) to be sure about safe routes. We must also guard against posting things, which are not in line with WHO (World Health Organisation) and Chinese health authorities here because it may cause some confusion and unnecessary fear among our people," said the ambassador.

He said there are no plans to evacuate Namibians yet.

WHO regional director Takeshi Kaisai was quoted by BCC commending China for accurately identifying the coronavirus.

He urged people to have coughing etiquette or to wash their hands to avoid infection and to also seek medical attention if they have been to China recently or have any symptoms of the virus.

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