Gov’t rules out evacuating Guyanese students from China

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The Government of Guyana has ruled out flying home scholarship students from China due to the threat of the Novel Coronavirus.

A team of government officials led by Minister of the Public Service, Tabitha Sarabo Halley on Saturday met with parents and other representatives of Guyana- China scholars, to inform them about steps being taken by the Governments of Guyana and China to manage the affairs of the students.

According to a statement from the Ministry, the Minister told parents that the  “Government is not putting plans in place to bring students home.”

She said after examining the situation, the Government has decided it’s best for them to remain there since moving from their current location will expose them to the virus.

“Staying put in the hostel significantly reduces the likelihood of contracting the virus,” she said.

Minister of Public Service Tabitha Sarabo-Halley

The Minister said the decision followed consultation with the Ministers of Public Health, State, Foreign Affairs, Citizenship and  Department of Public Service along with senior technical officers from the respective ministries and the head of PAHO in Guyana.

It also took into consideration advice received from the Chinese Ambassador to Guyana, local and regional medical practitioners. .

Minister Sarabo Halley also pointed out that while Government remains concerned, it is recognised that there will be difficulties should attempts be made to bring the students home whether by government or their relatives since they will have to be quarantined at various transit points.

“For them to move from one province to the other to get out is a 14-day wait. Fourteen-day quarantine period and that could happen for a while before they actually get out. So, it’s not that the government doesn’t care about the students. We have taken that into consideration,” she explained.

Among the several concerns raised by parents and other representatives of the students were the lack of adequate supplies for the students who are currently restricted to their place of residence and the sparsity of information.

The Minister assured that the Government will collect and disseminate accurate information on the situation as it pertains to each student currently in China on Government of Guyana / Government of China scholarships.

She further assured that the students have everything adding, “they know what to do if the virus is contracted and so that is the best place for them at the current stage because once they start moving we don’t know what will happen.”

The meeting was held at the Training Division of the Department of Public Service, Ministry of the Presidency, Vlissengen Road and D’urban Street, Lodge, Georgetown.

The team also Permanent Secretary of the Department of Public Service, Soyinka Grogan, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Shamdeo Persaud and Director of International Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Forbes July.

Dr. Shamdeo Persaud explained to those present that the confirmed deaths from the virus are mostly among persons who were already of poor health.

“The virus is not an aggressive one like Ebola … most of the persons who succumbed who get very sick and die are older persons and what they have also noted all of them are above 55 years and most of these people who also have poor morbidity, or underlying conditions,” Dr. Persaud told the parents.

In addition, Dr. Persaud said that there are currently 18 countries outside of China which have registered cases of the virus for which vaccines are currently being developed.

Meanwhile, Fariz Khan, an obstetrician who has been working in the local health sector for the last decade and himself a Master’s student says his sister is currently pursuing her Master’s in China. According to the Ministry, he encouraged those present to recognise the advice being given as the best in the current circumstances. He also reminded of previous outbreaks of viruses such as Zika, Ebola H1N1, SARS and lauded China and the Ministry for systems put in place

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Karen Cummings told the News Room on Friday that the Government was seeking to bring home two Guyanese students who are studying in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, where the outbreak of the new virus began.

According to the Government statement on Sunday, records show that there are 50 Guyanese students undergoing studies in China but ten of them are not currently in that country.

The Government on Friday announced that it will likely deny persons entry from China and that it has ceased granting visas to China. The Government also urged persons not to travel to the country in light of the possibility of contracting the virus.

The Ministry of Public Health said any person who has travelled to China or any of the affected countries will be quarantined either at a health facility of at home for 14 days –the time taken for the symptoms of the virus to be full noticeable –and also asked that anyone who returned from China since January 1 to visit a health facility.

China is struggling to deal with the virus, which has infected more than 14,000 people and killed more than 300.

There have now been more than 150 confirmed cases of the virus outside China, according to the BBC.

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