Coronavirus: Why Ghanaian students in epidemic-stricken Wuhan cannot return to Ghana

The World Health Organization has identified Ghana and eleven other countries as being particularly vulnerable to the Coronavirus outbreak, based on their direct links or high volumes of travel to China.

The eleven other countries include Angola, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

The WHO says around 15% of patients infected with the virus require hospital treatment, 25% needing intensive care and 5 to 10% needing mechanical ventilation, adding that most hospitals in sub-Sahara Africa would be unlikely to cope with the numbers requiring such care.

“Moreover, a pandemic in the region would undermine the already weak productivity in sub-Saharan Africa, and present a further downside risk to growth, although lower levels of urbanisation and urban population densities relative to China and other regions, as well as relatively limited intra- and inter-regional travel networks, will constrain transmission risks somewhat,” it emphasised.

The international rating agency, Fitch Research, recently pointed out that “Our core scenario is that the Coronavirus will largely be contained within China’s borders, albeit with relatively isolated cases occurring elsewhere. All suspected infections in the region—in Botswana, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia and Kenya—have so far proved to be negative, but local detection capacity is weak (only South Africa and Senegal have dedicated testing facilities, although more are being established), and there is a clear downside risk that the disease will spread globally, including across SSA.”

Fitch said South Africa is the most vulnerable in this respect.

“The South African rand is the second-worst performing Emerging Market currency in the world year-to-date, losing 5.6% of its value against the dollar. While this is partly due to ongoing concerns about South Africa’s weak economic growth, challenging fiscal position and slow reform momentum, the ZAR is a proxy play for broader Emerging Marketing risk aversion, meaning that the currency will remain vulnerable to risk-off sentiment.”

Meanwhile, the government of Ghana has assured families of the students that its Mission in China is working around the clock to provide all the needs of the students.

Ghana’s Ambassador to China, Mr Edward Boatenghe noted that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, immediately after the lockdown of Wuhan and the Hubei Province from January 23, 2020, granted approval for the embassy to expend 100,000 Yuan, the equivalent of $14,326, to enable the embassy to purchase nose masks, sanitisers and some groceries for Ghanaian students in the Hubei Province and others across China.

“The embassy released 55,000 Yuan to NUGS China out of that amount and students in Wuhan were given 20,000 Yuan each, while others in other cities in Hubei received 10,000 Yuan each,” he said.

He said another 20,000 Yuan was given for the purchase of nose masks and sanitisers for distribution to all other students in China, while he personally donated 10,000 Yuan to the students in Wuhan.

He further said another 30,000 Yuan was used to buy 10,000 masks which were distributed to the Ghanaian community in China.

On food and other logistics, Mr Boateng said the mission was in constant touch with the universities and working with them to ensure that students constantly had access to food and other needed logistics.

Adding that whenever the students encountered any problems and informed the mission about them or the problems were reported, the mission swiftly intervened to solve them and went back to verify from the students if their needs had been addressed.

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