SA students based in China safe amid Coronavirus outbreak

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Free State parents whose children are currently studying in China have received assurance of their children’s safety amid the Coronavirus outbreak.

Free State Premier Sisi Ntombela and Members of the Executive Council (EXCO) met the parents of the Free State students currently studying in the People’s Republic of China, on Wednesday in Bloemfontein.

The meeting sought to allay fears of the well-being of the students due to the recent Coronavirus outbreak which has since been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Convened by the Premier, the meeting was attended by the Chinese Counsel General Tang Zongdong, officials from the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, Health and International Relations Departments.

Of the students based in China, 38 students from the Free State are registered at Hubei University and 61 registered at Wuhan University.

At Hubei University, only 34 remain, and at Wuhan University only 22 remain, while the rest have since returned to South Africa prior to the outbreak, for internships and holidays. 

The city of Wuhan, in Hubei Province, China, has been identified as the epicentre of the virus since the first cases of the outbreak were reported late in December 2019.

The whole city of Wuhan, where the disease was first reported, is under quarantine.

“The Free State students in Wuhan, while not directly infected, are also affected by the imposed quarantine regulations which restrict movement of people in an attempt to limit the spread of the disease,” said the Free State Premier’s office in a statement on Thursday.

Movement of the students is restricted to the university residences, where they have been living and receive drinking water, milk, bread, and fruits once a week for free.

The students have not been transferred to other areas or localities. The reported difficulties they have endured include obtaining some essential supplies such as additional face masks, and other supplies for their basic personal needs. 

Zongdong confirmed that the Chinese government was doing everything possible to contain the virus, including extending the quarantine to several cities in China, and screening everyone leaving the republic.

“He also noted the steps taken to support the students, including providing them with free meals and face masks, and providing online tuition, so that students do not lose out on academic time, and appointing liaison officers in each affected university to assist students with queries and arranging their trips to supermarkets,” said Ntombela’s office.

The Free State Provincial Government has increased their stipend by 50% during the prevalent health crisis, so that they can acquire additional basic supplies they require. This will apply to all students currently still in China.

In total, the province has 142 registered students in China, studying at various universities.

However, only 91 students are currently quarantined in China, while the deficit of 51 has since returned to South African shores, for either internships or holidays, prior to the Coronavirus outbreak.

The full breakdown of the Free State students still in China, per institution of higher learning, is as follows:

  • · Beijing Institution of Technology (5)
  • · Dalian Medical University (5)
  • · Dalian University of Technology (3)
  • · Hubei University of Technology (38)
  • · Nanchang University (1)
  • · Nanjing Agricultural University (9)
  • · Nanjang University of Science and Technology (1)
  • · Northwest Polytechnic University (2)
  • · Wuhan University (22)
  • · Wuyishan University (2)
  • · Xi’an Jiantong University (3)



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