Students to safety

2020-03-04 06:04
Some of the South African students at Hubei University in Wuhan, China, eager to return home in the midst of the coronavirus spreading. Photo: Kamohelo Taole, Facebook

Some of the South African students at Hubei University in Wuhan, China, eager to return home in the midst of the coronavirus spreading. Photo: Kamohelo Taole, Facebook

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Scores of Free State students studying in China and their parents are breathing a sigh of relief after the South African government arranged for their repatriation, with the coronavirus spreading.

On Thursday (27/02) Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa ordered the repatriation of approximately 200 citizens from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Free State government has 147 students in China studying through scholarships at 14 universities.

Some of the students graduated early in January, whilst others were continuing with their studies.

Of the 147 students, 34 were expected to return to South Africa having graduated at the universities they were enrolled at. The number of new students enrolled is 113.

Setjhaba Maphalla, acting spokesperson for the Free State Premier’s Office, said earlier that the graduates remained in China due to the quarantine and travel restrictions.

“It’s a big relief that arrangements are afoot to return our children home while they are alive, and before we receive the bad news of death,” said the parent who spoke to Expressanonymously.

“I expected my daughter by 28 January, after grad­uating. The reason for her and others overstaying in China is complicated. Apparently, it is related to tuition fees in addition to the spread of the coronavirus.”

According to informed sources, about 120 students from the Free State are expected to arrive this week and they will be placed in isolation for 22 days, for screening.

Despite the enforcement of basic protective measures, such as wearing face masks to prevent infection, most parents believe their children will be the safest at home.

Parents and students became increasingly concerned as the death toll kept rising. According to reports, the Chinese health authorities have confirmed that there have been 7 711 cases in the country as of 29 January.

The death toll in China has reached more than 1 000, after 108 people died from the virus early in February.

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