About 800 Zimbabweans are among the 60 million people that are living in Hubei province — the epicentre of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak — but all of them are currently safe from the respiratory disease, the Zimbabwe Embassy in China has confirmed.
Chinese authorities put the expansive province, which has nearly three-quarters of the 75 000-plus confirmed cases, under total lockdown on January 23 to slow down the spread of the disease.
Responding to e-mailed questions from The Sunday Mail, Zimbabwe’s chief envoy to China, Ambassador Martin Chedondo, said the embassy is continuously providing information to Zimbabweans in China on how best to avoid infection.
“The embassy is not aware of any Zimbabwean citizen that has been infected,” said Ambassador Chedondo.
“The approximate number of Zimbabweans in Hubei province is between 600 and 800. The embassy is also providing updated information as and when we get it from the relevant authorities; assisting in relaying extension of visa requests from our nationals to the Foreign Affairs Offices of the province, as well as providing general advice and answering any other queries.”
The province, Ambassador Chedondo said, was under complete lockdown “which makes entry and exit not only impossible but also discouraged by the authorities”.
China has gradually ramped up sweeping quarantine measures in the province, whose capital city — Wuhan — was most affected by the disease.
Under the ongoing interventions, apartment compounds only allow people to go in and out through one gate, while each household could only send one person out once every three days to purchase groceries and other supplies.
Last week, the Hubei government ordered community officials to enforce strict, around-the-clock closed management of all residential complexes.
It also banned the private use of cars and forbade residents from leaving their apartments without permission.
As of Friday, 2 236 deaths had been recorded in China, while 1 109 new cases of the disease were confirmed.
Mainland China recorded 118 more deaths on Friday alone, but cases of new infections are declining.
In a statement last week, Ambassador Chedondo said: “We are particularly aware of the anxieties of the Zimbabwean community in China and those at home, hence we continue to urge all not to panic, as well as encourage them to follow all the measures put in place by the Chinese government to ensure their health and safety.
“We wish to point out that currently no Zimbabwean has been reported to have been infected by the virus; hence our insistence for our nationals to keep on following the measures put in place.”
Universities in China are also under lockdown, where students in campuses are encouraged to stay indoors as a preventative measure for their health safety.
Students that have travelled to their countries for the winter break are presently being advised to stay put.
The Zimbabwe Embassy is also encouraging students who are in the country to be in constant contact with their respective universities, as well as the Chinese Embassy in Harare to get accurate information on the situation.
Universities in China have begun online lessons so that students can raduate on time.
Last week, a Zimbabwean woman returning from Wuhan was placed under quarantine for tests for coronavirus at Wilkins Hospital in Harare.
She was later released after testing negative to the virus.-zp