Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
As anxiety and uncertainty trail the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus in China, the Federal Government has said evacuation of Nigerians in the Asian country remains the last option.
The government which premised its position on the ability of China to handle the epidemic, however, said should the need arise, it would do everything possible to evacuate Nigerians in the country.
The government also said it was strengthening preparedness to prevent the outbreak of the virus by mounting adequate response should the virus shows up in the country.
The acting director, Asia and Pacific Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Aisha Dewa, while speaking during an interactive forum between the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Nigeria and parents and families of Nigerians living in China, said the ministry was working closely with the Presidency on how to attend to concerns raised by Nigerians in China, especially the students.
Dewa added that the government will assist Nigerians in China financially, materially and otherwise, disclosing that a memo forwarded to President Muhammadu Buhari by the ministry was currently before the president.
Dewa further assured the families that President Buhari would give positive consideration to the memo, even as she urged the parents and families of Nigerians in China to be patient with the government.
While saying that the Nigerian missions in China were on top of the situation, Dewa also said the Nigerian missions were working with Nigerians in China to see how to forge a way out of the situation.
“On the issue of evacuation, of course, evacuation is not something that can easily be done. But evacuation should be the last option actually because we believe the Chinese authorities are capable of addressing the situation and we have seen the efforts made by the Chinese Government towards that.
“So, we are confident that China, sooner or later, will come out of the situation and everything will be a thing of the past.
“The evacuation issue, even though the government is aware of it, is going to be the last option. But if the need warrants evacuation, the government will do all that is necessary to evacuate Nigerians in that region, especially in that epicentre of the virus,” Dewa said.
Speaking earlier, the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in Nigeria, Dr Zhou Pingjian, said under the strong leadership of President Xi Jinping, the 1.4 billion Chinese people were making all-out efforts at fighting the epidemic.
Zhou added that the Chinese Government had taken the most comprehensive, rigorous and thorough measures, many of which had far exceeded what the World Health Organization (WHO) and international health regulations required.
The Chinese envoy also said the COVID-19 had come and would go, adding that the outbreak is just temporary, but friendship and cooperation are forever.
While saying that China will always remember the sympathy and support given to her in the battle against the virus, Zhou further assured that foreign nationals are safe in China.
“According to the professional evaluation of WHO director-general, Dr Tedros, the safest way for foreign nationals in Wuhan is to stay put and ensure effective self-protection. He has cautioned against the hasty movement as it would add more uncertainties. “We will suggest that countries follow WHO recommendations and educate their nationals to ensure sound protection in accordance with local health regulations,” Zhou said.
The envoy further said the Chinese Government had worked to guarantee the life needs of foreign nationals in China.
Zhou added that in doing so, the Chinese Government ensured that the well-being of foreign nationals in China had been made a priority in the work of local governments and community-level bodies, who had worked hard to meet the needs of foreigners in daily life, epidemic prevention and treatment and resolve their legitimate concerns to the best of their ability.
Also speaking, the director, Port Health Services, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Morenike Alex-Okoh, said the ministry was strengthening preparedness since the virus is already in 39 countries.
Regarding the welfare of Nigerians in China, Alex-Okoh added that the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, was in contact with the Nigerian Ambassador in China.
“So, the country is strengthening preparedness to prevent the importation and mounting adequate response should it come here,” Alex-Okoh said.
The interaction also witnessed the donation of N600,000 to Nigerian students in Wuhan, China by the Chinese Alumni Association in Nigeria.