Cape Town teacher living in 'eerie' Wuhan: 'Some expats refuse to go out at all'

2020-01-30 13:31
A Cape Town family living in Wuhan, China, says they are taking every precaution to keep safe. (Supplied)

A Cape Town family living in Wuhan, China, says they are taking every precaution to keep safe. (Supplied)

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A Cape Town family living in Wuhan, China, says they are taking every precaution to keep safe as their home of less than a year has turned into a ghost town.

This as the death toll from the coronavirus reportedly rose to 170 in China.

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Winslow Forbes, his wife and their two young children moved to Wuhan in April last year. Forbes teaches at an international high school.

"The city is like a ghost town. A bit eerie, as it has 11 million people living in it," he told News24 on Thursday.

"The city has come to a complete halt. [There has been] no transportation at all since last week [and the] airport is shut down. Thankfully, my wife and I have scooters and we are very careful to wear protective masks and gloves when we need to get supplies."


READ | Coronavirus: No need to evacuate South Africans living in Wuhan - Mkhize

Their main focus is getting supplies, Forbes said. Fruit and vegetables have become scarce but necessities like rice, flour, sugar and eggs are still available.

Back home, his family is understandably worried, he said.

His father is a widower and two of his three adult children are currently in Wuhan as Forbes' older sister is also working in the city.

"That's a total of five immediate family members in quarantine, excluding my wife. My wife is an only child and her mom is very concerned too," he said.

"I am naturally concerned for my family. Other countries are evacuating their citizens - US, UK, Japan, Holland, India and many more. I doubt whether our government will do the same. Of course I would like my family to be able to get home where they are safer."

READ | SA establishes specialised task team to prevent spread of coronavirus to SA

Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele confirmed that there were no plans to evacuate South Africans in China.

He said Dirco was advised by the South African health department which has indicated that there was "no reason to panic at the moment".

He urged those living in China to "remain vigilant and keep in contact" with the embassy.


Al Jazeera on Thursday reported that the World Health Organization (WHO) would hold an urgent meeting over whether the coronavirus outbreak should be declared a global health emergency, which could result in increased international co-ordination.

The death toll in China from the new coronavirus rose to 170, as more countries announced plans to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak.

Some 7 711 people in China are now confirmed to have the infection, which has spread from Wuhan's Hubei province to every one of China's 31 provinces.

Meanwhile, the days for Forbes and his family are long as they stay indoors, venturing out only for groceries.

"[We] keep our 8 and 5-year-old occupied. They don't go outside. The risk is too great," he said.

"Thankfully, they think it's an adventure."

The city has changed drastically in the space of just a week, according to Forbes.

"No one is outside. When you do see [someone], you give them a wide berth and treat everyone with suspicion, just in case they may have it and infect you. We wear protective masks and gloves and don't touch any doors, elevator buttons or hand railings without protective gear.

"We have to disinfect underneath our shoes and wash hands immediately when back home. Gloves are washed and groceries are wiped down just in case someone was infected at the supermarket and touched a carton of milk."

His is a praying family, Forbes said.

"We know that God is in control. We stay wise and trust Him.

"I think that our faith gives us peace. A lot of expats here are very panicked and fearful. Some refuse to go out at all. I totally understand the fear factor. We try to take groceries when we can."

Read more on:    china  |  coronavirus  |  healthcare

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