As the coronaviruses related death toll continues to rise at least one other Vincentian student has sought out Asberth News Network to register her personal safety concerns.
This particular student is on the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies in Jamaica where a suspected case of coronavirus infected individual was thought to be present.
“It is a morning when we are getting reports of people, certainly in parts of St. Andrew, talking about a case here in Jamaica and let me tell you. We’ve got to be careful. We don’t want to spread panic, this is already a serious threat. We just came off the phone with the Health Minister via contact – there is no suspected case of the coronavirus at the University Hospital or anywhere in Jamaica. No suspected cases. What we can tell you that there are tests being done on an individual, an individual. But there is no suspicion… out of an abundance of caution they are doing tests. One person who came in from China two weeks ago with flu like symptoms… Just to be sure it’s either or not the coronavirus… so please don’t spread panic or alarm,” a University official said via an apparent WhatsApp voice note circulated last Tuesday.
A few hours later Jamaican media reported an emergency press conference called by their local Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton to address the mounting panic that resulted from the “abundance of caution” that led University Hospital doctors there to quarantine and test an individual that was transferred for their attention.
Thankfully the authorities there have been able to douse the rising dread.
This was confirmed by the same Vincentian student who, on Tuesday, said “me scared. My hall deh right dehso, de hospital deh right dehso me cyar bother wid disya. Me wah go home.” In a follow up interview one day later, she said via Facebook Messenger “as far as I know [the panic has totally died away]. Things are back to normal. I didn’t even hear a single conversation about it today.”
Earlier this week ANN published an article relating the situation being experienced by Vincentians studying in the Suzhoz province which is close to the epicentre of the virus outbreak – Wuhan, China.
There, two Vincentian females have quarantined themselves in their dormitories along with other Caribbean students in the Chinese leg of a UWI Software Engineering course. Safe, for the time being, their now constant worry is the slowly depleting stock of food and living resources, face masks and cleaning essentials.
On Wednesday one of the Suzhoz based Vincentians assured ANN that their anxiety levels have not lessened as “a lot of roads and airports are closing and airlines are terminating flights out of China.”
Even though her calls to the Vincentian Embassy on Taiwan (which was opened in August 2019) “have not gone through” just yet, an email by their former principal (now) Ambassador Andrea Bowman was sent to “wish us well and so.”
Asked whether Ambassador Bowman’s email contained any “concrete plans as to what the Embassy can do,” the marooned student replied “no, not as yet.”
Meanwhile the University of the West Indies have promised to “purchase and distribute essential supplies to” the approximately 30 students. Now that a list of necessary resources was provided by the mixed grouping of Jamaican, Barbadian and Vincentian Soft ware Engineers in training – the promise of replenished stock is welcomed news. UWI is yet to commit to a delivery timeline though.
The University has reassured them that their “health and well-being will remain the priority… and that they [UWI] would do anything reasonable to protect us from increased or unnecessary exposure,” the second Vincentian student disclosed.
As international media continue to report on the rising death counts and infection rates globally Vincentians at home are themselves sharing their concerns with ANN.
One tourism service provider on Bequia confided “this is crazy. Yesterday I saw many tourists come off a cruise and some had the cold, with sneezing, coughing etc and I thought ‘how easy it will be for that virus to spread here.’ We are not ready and we can’t deal with something like that.”
On mainland St. Vincent a mini-van owner and taxi operator was concerned that “… the most they trying to do is to quarantine people and cut off travel all over the world. Weh you think gwine happen if that Shxt end up and touchdown in Vincy? We are so ill-equipped to deal with that. It’s gonna wipe us out. It really’s gonna wipe us out.”
Meanwhile local filmmaker Akley Olton observed “one of the first things that come to my mind is how we in Vincy are prepared to deal with this outbreak if it’s supposed to get to our shores. So I’m already thinking about the next shipping freight that’s coming in and if it’s coming from China and I’m wondering if the hands were clean when they put the crates and boxes on that ship or if one of these new vehicles that we’re importing – if it drove through a puddle that was close to that market which is the ground zero of the coronavirus.”
Referring to the Vincentian colloquial love of “wild meat” while referencing what some experts have said is the link between the novel coronaviruses and the “wildlife markets such as the Huana Seafood Wholesale Market at the center of the Wuhan epidemic,” Olton also encouraged Vincentians towards better environmental habits.
“It’s a valuable and important part of our identity … we eat ‘guana and we eat manicou and you might eat some tattoo… but the other thing that I think we have to be mindful of is that we have to keep the environment healthy so that these animals could stay clean and healthy so that when we consume them, they’re not sick and activate these crazy epidemics which bring about this huge amount of fear….”
As a further word of advice the award winning Vincentian creator said “I would encourage us Vincies to start preparing for this virus by cleaning up our environment.”
Attempts to discern the national emergency plan, in this regard, from Health and Education Ministry officials are being studiously avoided.