• Tuesday, Feb 25, 2020
  • Last Update : 12:27 am

Bangladeshi students confined in Wuhan seek help, allege non-cooperation

  • Published at 09:38 pm January 25th, 2020
China virus
Pictures uploaded to social media January 25, 2020 by the Central Hospital of Wuhan show medical staff attending to a patient in Wuhan, China. The Central Hospital of Wuhan via Weibo Reuters

The Bangladesh Embassy opens a hotline number  + (86)-17801116005 for smooth communication round the clock

As the number of coronavirus cases keeps surging in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei province, Bangladeshi students living there are concerned about their fate, with many seeking help to return home.

They have apparently been confined in Wuhan since Thursday. 

Many of the students -- believed to be around 500 -- alleged that the Bangladesh Embassy in Beijing and the local authorities were not paying any heed to their call.

Through social media the students said they were not only at risk of being infected with the virus that had already killed 41 people in China, but were also facing a scarcity of food as the city of 11 million people has been in lockdown since Thursday.  

For its part, the Bangladesh Embassy claimed that it had been in touch with the students. 

In Wuhan, no trains or planes are being allowed in or out currently, with checkpoints blocking the main roads leading out of town. Authorities have since imposed transport restrictions on nearly all of Hubei, which has a population of 59 million.

Rakibul Turja, a mechanical and automation engineering at Hubei University of Technology, on his Facebook timeline wrote Saturday: “We are not being able to return home. Though the media is reporting that our embassy in China is updating our whereabouts following the viral outbreak, such news reports are baseless. Till date, we have received no communications from them,” he added.

“We are going through a tough time. May Allah save all of us from the trouble,” he said, claiming that Wuhan hosts some 500 Bangladeshis pursuing undergraduate, post-graduate and PhD degrees at different local universities. 

Dhaka Tribune, nevertheless, could not independently verify the actual number of Bangladeshi students in Wuhan. 

Md Sajib Hossain, assistant teacher at Yangtze University in southern Hubei, on Facebook live, said that since the death toll of 41 was confirmed Saturday, the university authorities had been asking them to depend on the Chinese government and not to panic.   

“But they are not taking measures for our safety. Since we are stuck in a city that has been in lockdown since Thursday, there is no way to exit it. Moreover, the university authorities are asking us not to leave our dormitory rooms,” he stated.

“Now it is high time our government helped us get out of the situation,” he said, adding that pindrop silence had come over the entire city.

“We are helpless here. Though we are living with mental strength, we are facing a food crisis since all shops and even superstores are closed,” he furthered. 

He urged the Bangladesh government, especially the prime minister, to arrange special flights to help the Bangladeshi students return home at the earliest.   

Tahera Toma, a PhD student at East China Normal University in Shanghai, posted a status claiming that she was fine, but uncertain about her future. 

“We have been safe so far, but don’t know what will happen next. The situation in Shanghai is quite normal, but a panicky atmosphere is prevailing here,” wrote Toma, who has a master's degree from Wuhan University of Technology. 

Central China Normal University PhD researcher Faisal Karim, who returned home on January 21, two days before the lockdown, told reporters in Bangladesh that Bangladeshis, mostly students, are almost “confined” in Hubei. 

They are also running short of food due to the lockdown, he said. 

Statements from Bangladesh Embassy

Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Embassy has said its officials were in regular contact with the students to assist them following the outbreak and opened a hotline number - + (86)-17801116005 for smooth communications round the clock. 

“We already have spoken to some of the students at Hubei University in China,” Bangladesh Ambassador to China Mahbub Uz Zaman said, reports UNB. 

Besides, a deputy director of the Chinese Foreign Ministry was regularly updating the Bangladesh Embassy about the situation. 

The Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) and Head of Chancery (HOC) of the Bangladesh Mission have also added themselves to Wuhan We Chat Group comprising 245 students in Wuhan.

Due to the Chinese New Year holidays, the Embassy said, most of the Bangladeshi students were on leave and had gone home on vacation.

The Mission is also regularly updating Dhaka on the situation.

Screening at land, air and seaports

Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) and Shah Amanat International Airport have been screening passengers returning from China and Thailand.

In HSIA alone, nearly 1,000 people are being screened on an average every day. 

HSIA health centre’s Assistant Director Dr Shahriar Sazzad said: “Besides the passengers, even cabin crews are being screened.” 

But China-returnee Faisal said measures to detect the coronavirus cases at the airport were not satisfactory.

“I myself had to go through a mere thermal scanner. The authorities concerned did not perform any other test on me,” he said.

“I was not even told to fill a form at the airport,” he said, hinting that the authorities were showing negligence in keeping a record of those returning from China.  

Bangladesh Land Port Authority Chairman Tapan Kumar Chakravorty said the immigration department and civil surgeon's offices in the districts, where there are land ports, had been instructed to take measures for screening passengers. 

Our Hili correspondent Halim Al Raji said no screening measures were taken in Hili land port till Saturday. The same situation is at Chittagong Port, but the authorities claimed that they had kept a physician ready if needed.