Govt likely to evacuate Nepalis from China’s Hubei on Saturday

Kathmandu, February 10

After dragging its feet for 10 days, the government has finally started making preparations to bring back Nepalis stranded in the Chinese province of Hubei, the epicentre of the deadly coronavirus outbreak, on February 15.

The government will use Nepal Airlines Corporation aircraft to evacuate Nepalis from China. Nine crew members, who will be provided with personal protective equipment, will be deployed to bring back Nepalis from Wuhan, according to NAC.

NAC Spokesperson Archana Khadka confirmed that talks were being held to bring back Nepalis on Saturday. “But we need to first get permission from Chinese aviation authority to operate the flight. So, nothing can be said for certain at this moment,” she said.

At least 180 Nepalis — 177 students and three children — have applied to return home after the Nepali Embassy in China requested those who wished to be evacuated to submit applications. They had submitted applications on February 2. But since then the government has not done anything, making Nepalis in Hubei even more anxious.

“We share milk in the morning and eat less in the evening, as there is shortage of food. Even those who used to deliver drinking water are suspected to have contracted the disease and are being quarantined. So, we are forced to drink tap water,” said Sudip Rahut, a medical student in Hubei province, via video conference. There is option of buying food and water from the market, according to Rahut. “But to do that we must go outside and that raises the risk of contracting the disease. Also, the college is providing only one or two masks in five days,” he said.

Gaurab Pokhrel, a PhD candidate at Tongji Medical Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, said, “There is always a risk of contracting the disease in the place where I am living as there is a hospital nearby. So, even our professors are asking when we are going home.”

The guardians of Nepalis residing in China have been demanding immediate evacuation of their children.

“Neither can we sleep nor can we eat properly, as our children are passing through a difficult situation. They do not have proper drinking water and groceries are also limited,” Radha Kayastha, mother of Shruti Kayastha, who is studying in Wuhan, told a press conference today.

If the government continues to delay the evacuation process, chances of Nepalis committing suicide cannot be ruled out, according to Prakash Kandel, who graduated from Wuhan. “The students are psychologically depressed,” he said. “Who will take responsibility if students commit suicide?”