Wed | Jan 27, 2021

J’cans in China living in dread as virus spreads

Published:Monday | January 27, 2020 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
A worker wearing a hazardous materials suit takes the temperature of a passenger at the entrance to a subway station in Beijing, China, Sunday. The new coronavirus has accelerated its spread in China.

As China resorts to the shutting down of multiple cities in an effort to contain the spread of the infectious coronavirus, Jamaican students attending universities there say they are living in dread.

China on Sunday warned that people can spread the virus before realising they are ill, presenting an even greater challenge to combat the outbreak, which has already infected 1,900 Chinese and other people in faraway countries. President Xi Jinping has called the unfolding crisis “a grave situation”.

Martin Livermore, a doctoral student at a local university in Dalian province, about 1,500 kilometres away from Wuhan, described the dilemma as near apocalyptic.

“It is something out of a movie what’s happening now. Although I am in Dalian province, some ways from ground zero, two people are infected and admitted to hospital here, but I have friends in Wuhan.

“Word from them is that the stores are closed and supermarkets are empty. We are just wearing masks and taking extra precautions,” he said.

Livermore told The Gleaner that he, along with others, is worried about how quickly the virus is spreading.

Most of the 56 people killed so far by the virus appeared to have had pre-existing conditions that made them more susceptible.

Thailand, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, France, Taiwan, Macau, Vietnam, Nepal, and the United States have reported cases of the virus.

Twenty-four-year-old master’s degree student Analisa Robinson said that living in China amid the health crisis is the scariest feeling she has ever had.

“It is one of the most terrifying feelings ever for me. I am in Hebei province, miles away from the outbreak, but I am scared to even go outside to take out my garbage or even to buy groceries – if any can be found. It’s that bad,” she said.

“Sometimes I think of booking a flight home, but that, too, gives me anxiety because of the great risk of contracting the virus during travel, and, even worse, taking it to Jamaica,” said Robinson.

She is concerned that with the winter break approaching and schools soon set to reopen, she fears things will get worse before getting better.

The Chinese government has responded by kick-starting the construction of new hospitals in a measure to deal with rising numbers of infected people.

Already, too, the Jamaican Government is stepping up mitigation efforts by announcing that disinfectant mats will be installed at the country’s two international airports. Travellers departing from China, or who have visited the country recently, could face rigorous screening and be quarantined if they present with signs and symptoms, which include runny nose, headache, and sore throat – manifestations similar to the common cold.

Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Karen Webster Kerr said last week that preparedness activities would continue for the prevention and containment of the coronavirus.

The new virus, known as 2019-nCoV, appears to have originated in a Huanan seafood wholesale market in Wuhan, a Chinese city about 650 miles south of Beijing with population of more than 11 million. The market was shut down on the first of January.