The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Ms. Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, has said that the government is doing all it can to safeguard the health, safety and well-being of Ghanaians living in China, particularly students who are on lockdown in Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.
She said even though the evacuation of the students was not possible at the moment, the ministry and the Ghana Mission in China would continue to monitor developments in China and act appropriately.
Ms. Botchwey made this known at a meeting with a delegation from the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) last Tuesday to discuss the coronavirus disease in China and the safety of Ghanaian students in Wuhan.
She said experts on the National Technical Coordination Committee on the disease were monitoring the situation keenly and had advised that the evacuation of Ghanaian students should be undertaken only as a measure of last resort.
She acknowledged the general anxiety among families whose children are in Wuhan, as well as the public, and empathized with the difficult situation the students and, indeed, the Ghanaian population in China were in.
She gave an assurance that the government was up to the task and that there was no cause for alarm.
She said the government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration and the Ghana Embassy in China, had been holding regular meetings with the leadership of the students in China regarding ways to ease their plight and address their concerns.
She said the ministry had also held meetings with the Chinese Ambassador to Ghana and received assurances from the Ambassador to the effect that the Central and Provincial governments of China, as well as authorities at the universities in Wuhan, would continue to step up efforts to ensure that the concerns of Ghanaian students in Wuhan were addressed in an expeditious manner.
The minister said further that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had granted approval for the Ghana Mission in Beijing to expend ¥100,000 ($14,286) to cater for emergency needs such as nose masks, hand sanitisers and food items in support of Ghanaians in Wuhan and its environs.
She said an additional $50,000 and $200,000 had been separately transferred to the Ghana Mission in Beijing to cater for the emergency needs of the students.
Ms. Botchwey said last Saturday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration dispatched cartons of assorted Ghanaian food items to the Ghana Mission in Beijing for onward delivery to the students in Wuhan.
She said the Ghana Embassy in Beijing had recommended that its Visa Section be closed to the public as a means to avoid exposing its staff to the coronavirus.
In spite of that, she said, officers of the section had been deployed to provide timely consular assistance for the Ghanaian community in China and have had dedicated phone numbers published to help address their concerns regarding the disease, while its website was frequently updated.
The Coronavirus (now named COVID-19) was reported to have begun from a seafood market in Wuhan in the Hubei Province of China.
As of Monday, February 17, this year, the National Health Commission of China had reported that 2,048 new confirmed infections had been recorded. It noted that of those new cases, 1,933 were from the Hubei Province, thereby bringing the number of infected people across China to 70,548.
It further reported that at least 100 of the newly infected people in the Hubei Province had died.
The national death toll currently stands at 1,770.
The virus has spread to 27 countries and territories and infected 500 people outside mainland China, with four deaths reported in The Philippines, Hong Kong, France and Japan.
Egypt recorded the first confirmed case of the virus in Africa on February 14.