AS the Wuhan coronavirus sweeps through China, one Trinidadian holed up there on Wednesday complained of feeling abandoned by the TT Embassy in Beijing. China has 132 dead and 6,000 infected, with infections also found in the USA, Canada, France, Australia, Japan and other Asian nations.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday claimed the Beijing mission had contacted two TT nationals in Hubei Province including one in Wuhan city neither of whom had a desire to be evacuated. Yet this statement was disputed by a social media post by Shilohna Phillanders, a TT national teaching English Language to primary school pupils in China.
She said she had lived almost a year in Wuhan and had got out just in time, without any help from the TT mission.
“I lived in Wuhan for the majority of 2019. I was there in the initial stages of this coronavirus outbreak.
“I was there before international media even started covering the story and before you all knew it existed.”
She said on arriving in China last May, she had sent her personal details to the TT embassy which had confirmed receipt but then had lost touch.
“So imagine my surprise when I read that article realising that it is quite possibly me, the sole TT national living in Wuhan, who our Embassy claimed they contacted and were aware of my well-being etcetera.”
Via WhatsApp, Phillanders told Newsday how she had ended up in China.
“I’ve migrated and relocated to China. I lived in Wuhan eights months. I got out a few weeks ago before things got really bad.”
She now lives in Shenzheng City in Guangdong Province, under a self-imposed quarantine in her apartment.
However, she did not betray any sign of panic over the outbreak.
“I feel quiet calm. The virus started a lot earlier than the international news said. It began in December 2019. I was aware of it.
“My company said avoid crowded areas and take precautions. A rumour circulated that it may be a repeat of SARS. Because I had been aware of it, I got out of Wuhan before it went under lock down. In my city (Shenzheng) I feel safe.
“I’ve not met any other TT nationals." Phillanders reckoned the ministry’s referral to two TT nationals in Hubei had included her. “But I was not contacted despite sharing my information. Something is wrong. I’m quite annoyed they had shared my info but not been in touch.”
She said on Wednesday she had contacted the embassy with her details.
“I let them know I am well and fine and that I had left Wuhan before the lockdown. “I got an e-mail response from the embassy, offering assistance and giving a phone number to call. But if I had not reached out to them, would I have heard anything from them?”
Phillanders did not know what had happened at the embassy, adding, “We’ll see what will happen.”
She told of her daily existence.
“I have been in my apartment a week now. I left it last Thursday and Friday to try to the grocery to buy fruits and stocks to last until next week.
“I am trying to limit my contact with people.”
She said she occasionally opened her apartment window just a little bit to try to catch a little ventilation.
“There are air conditioning units in my apartment but I try to limit it because it is all recycled air. The Government of China advises people to ventilate.”
Phillanders said everyone in China is still awaiting more details on how the virus spreads to know what precautions they should take.
“I am quite restrictive in my lifestyle but I feel safer inside than going out.”
She said she stays in touch with other English-speaking expatriates in China by way of a local equivalent of WhatsApp.
“Some of them have left their apartments to walk around. I am here on my own. I prefer to play it safe. My family from home (TT) contact me, plus my friends from work.”
Phillanders said the global media portray the outbreak as a lot scarier than it is.
“I don’t feel panicked or scared.
“The memes posted online from outside China make it sound like a zombie apocalypse.”
She said she is quite calm in spirit and personality, amid the outbreak.
Newsday asked how she has kept herself occupied during her week locked up inside. “I occupy myself with games, I read books, and I keep in contact with my friends from TT. I watch a lot of movies.” Phillanders said she viewed the lock down as part of her adventure in China.
Her heart went out to Wuhan.
“I’m quite sad at the situation in Wuhan. I lived there for one year. People are really friendly. It’s a really nice city. Everything is just like home, coming from TT.
“Everyone was so welcoming to me and so helpful, that what they are going through now, I worry about them a lot. I hope they are okay and this passes soon.”