Nepali students in Wuhan desperate to return home

Published On: February 6, 2020 08:13 AM NPT By: Aditi Baral

Many feeling frustrated, facing mental breakdown

KATHMANDU, Feb 6: Nepali students wishing to return from Wuhan – the Chinese city at the epicenter of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak — are frustrated and angry because of delays by the Nepal government in evacuating them. The students are on the verge of mental breakdowns. They are confined to their rooms and are desperately awaiting help from the authorities in Kathmandu. 

The virus was first reported in Wuhan on December 31, 2019 and it has now spread all over the world. More than 24,000 cases have been reported to date and about 500 deaths confirmed worldwide. The United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Thailand and even Nepal have reported cases of the virus.

While most of these countries have already evacuated their citizens, others are in the process of doing so. Nepal has not yet evacuated any of its citizens from the stricken city. “If the Nepal government is not willing to evacuate us anytime soon, it should stop giving us false hopes and mere sympathy,” said Dr Gaurab Pokhrel, a PhD student and surgeon at Tongji Medical Hospital of Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) in Wuhan. 

There are about 180 Nepali students who want to return from Wuhan. However, the delays in their repatriation have caused them severe stress. “The streets of the city are empty and there is a shortage of daily requirements like food and water. We remain inside our rooms, watch TV and sleep. Imagine your entire daily routine being restricted in this way. It’s so hard,” the students told Republica over the phone, adding that the situation is worsening by the day and most of them have started developing mental problems. 

Dr Pokhrel and his friends saw students from India and African countries evacuate their citizens. But they themselves can only wait for the government of Nepal to come to their rescue. 

“We are all healthy,” the students claimed, adding, “Only those affected by the virus are isolated....we have accepted self-quarantine.” 

The incubation period for the coronavirus is about 14 days and none of the Nepali students willing to come back have any symptoms. But delays could mean anything can happen.

About 4,000 new cases of coronavirus were reported in China on Tuesday alone, with 30 plus deaths confirmed. 

 “We want to return to Nepal at the earliest as anything could happen and any of us could be affected,” Dr Pokharel said, adding, “If bringing us back can create fear and the possibility of the virus spreading, we are willing to undergo self-quarantine for 14 days in Nepal. All we want is to come back.” 

The government in Kathmandu and the Nepali embassy in Beijing are still working on preparations to evacuate the students back to Nepal. “So far 180 people have filled out the forms for returning. We are trying to expedite the process but there are important steps that need to be taken first,” said Sushil Kumar Lamsal, deputy chief of mission at the embassy. “We will evacuate them but not without adequate preparations as that could make things worse. We urge them to trust us and stay calm,” he said.

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