KAMPALA – Lawmakers have appealed for the evacuation of Ugandans especially students in China in the midst of the deadly coronavirus in Wuhan province.
Hon. Latif Sebaggala Kawempe North raised a matter of national importance during a plenary sitting on 11 February 2020, saying that he has received messages from students who are concerned about their plight.
According to the letter from the students read by Ssebagala, there has been a general lack of necessities including groceries and masks.
The students added that prices of groceries have been hiked making it hard to afford.
In their letter, the five students appealed to the government to use its diplomatic engagement with the Chinese government to allow for timely evacuation.
“If other countries have evacuated their citizens, why can’t Uganda do so? We just need to ensure that they are quarantined when they return,” said Sebaggala.
Hon Muhammad Nsereko (Indep. Kampala Central Division) advised the government to consider chartering a Uganda Airlines plane to evacuate citizens in China.
“This is not a matter that any of them (students) could have foreseen. We need to get them to safe passage and assess them for two weeks. Thailand has done it, Nigeria has done it, and the Senegalese have done it,” Nsereko said.
Mbale Municipality MP, Hon Jack Wamanga-Wamai urged East African countries to work together to expatriate their students before they get exposed to the virus.
“Uganda does not have a long-range aircraft but Kenya does. The mission in Beijing cannot do anything. These are government students and the government is responsible for them when they are abroad,” Wamanga Wamai said.
Attempts by the Government Chief Whip, Hon. Ruth Nankabirwa to assure MPs that the government was handling the issue left legislators dissatisfied, who called for immediate intervention.
Nankabirwa said that the cabinet tasked the Health ministers and Uganda’s Ambassador to China to ensure the students are helped.
“We are still weighing on evacuating them or sending logistics to help them where they are quarantined. We don’t want our children to continue suffering but we have to work with the government of China to accept our request,” she said adding that, “We are taking this as a matter of urgency for the safety of the students and the safety of the 42 million Ugandans”.
Hon Paul Mwiru (FDC, Jinja Municipality East) however, said that the government should not be hesitant on evacuating the students.
“Government is weighing whether to bring Ugandans to their country or to leave them to China and China takes a decision for them. We have ever seen the government evacuate UPDF soldiers who were suffering from Ebola and were brought to Uganda. It is a duty of our country to secure Ugandans abroad,” he said.
Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga directed the Prime Minister to provide the government’s strategy to help Ugandans in China on 12 February 2020.
“The situation is really bad, there is no food, the banks are closed, and there is no transport. They are going to starve. You should support all the children in universities with basics as you hold your night meetings,” said Kadaga.
She said the strategy should include immediate and ultimate interventions towards Ugandans in China.
The coronavirus was first reported in Wuhan, China last month and it spread to neighboring Asian countries. International media reports indicate that the death toll since the first case was reported has passed 1,000.
According to the World Health Organisation, the coronavirus is a strange type of virus that causes respiratory illness which they are still investigating on how it affects people, how they can be treated, and what countries can do to respond.