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Life in Wuhan: An African Student Reflects on Months of Forced Isolation

Just as the rest of the world struggles to contain the highly-infectious COVID-19, China is now starting to emerge from its own battle with this deadly virus. Slowly, people are being allowed out of their homes and even returning to work. But not everyone.

In Wuhan, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, residents are entering their third month of forced confinement in their homes. And even though some now see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, it’s nonetheless been a difficult ordeal for everyone, especially for the thousands of African students who were unable to leave.

Although there’s no precise number, it’s widely believed there are around 4,600 African students in Wuhan, many of who have struggled mightily over the past few months dealing with the fear of being infected, the loneliness that comes forced isolation and just being a foreigner in a country far away from friends and family.

“Most people, especially international students in Wuhan including myself went into panic mode during the first weeks of the pandemic because we faced a triple threat – fear of infection, lack of basic necessities, and limited social support. “

Wuhan university doctoral researcher Michael addaney

Their ordeal and calls for their evacuation have been widely covered in the African media but now with the crisis ebbing in China and escalating back home, it seems increasingly improbable that they will be repatriated by their governments. Instead, they’re just going to have to ride out the remainder of the quarantine period in the hope that the virus truly has retreated in China.

One would think that this difficult experience might have tainted how these students view China given all they’ve had to endure. But Michael Addaney, a doctoral researcher at the Wuhan University School of Law and Vice President of the local chapter of the Ghanaian Students Association, said, actually, it’s the other way around. He’s been impressed with how the Chinese have handled the crisis while at the same time felt abandoned by his own people back home, many of which were fearful of him and the other 82,000 African students returning to Africa potentially infected with the virus.

This left Michael and his peers with a sense they’ve been abandoned by their own people.

Michael joins Eric & Cobus from Wuhan to talk about his experience living under quarantine in the epicenter and what day-to-day life has been like for him and so many other African students there.

Show Notes:

About Michael Addaney:

Michael Addaney is currently a doctoral scholar at the Research Institute of Environmental Law at Wuhan University, Wuhan, China. His research interests include international environmental law and policy, environmental justice and climate law, with a focus on the role of urbanisation in environmental sustainability in the African region.

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