In this photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, a pilot wearing a protective suit parks a cargo plane at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei Province, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. Hong Kong’s leader announced Tuesday that all rail links to mainland China will be cut starting Friday as fears grow about the spread of a new virus. (Cheng Min/Xinhua via AP)

There are two T&T nationals in China’s Hubei province where the coronavirus was found, including one in Wuhan city where the outbreak began, and they have to remain there under quarantine, Government has confirmed.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a statement on the development yesterday. The Ministry stated the two nationals haven’t “expressed any desire to be evacuated at this time.”

The development arose as the New York Times yesterday reported Chinese officials have confirmed over 6,000 cases of the mysterious virus and 132 deaths.

US and UK governments are airlifting their citizens out of Wuhan, the outbreak’s epicentre.

But international concern has increased since the virus shows signs of spreading overseas, with people who never visited China falling ill in Germany, Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Finland noted its first case yesterday – a Chinese tourist who recently was in Wuhan. The World Health Organisation meets today to evaluate whether the new coronavirus spreading from China now constitutes an international emergency.

Yesterday T&T’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said its embassy in China confirmed there are 120 T&T nationals in China.

Most of the 120 are at this time in Beijing, Hong Kong, Jiangsu, Shanghai, Guangdong, Zhejiang, Chongqing and 18 other cities.

This includes two T&T nationals: one person in coronavirus epicentre Wuhan and another in Qianjiang. Both cities are in Hubei province. Wuhan is the capital of that province.

The Ministry added, “ At present, there are restrictions on public and private transport and on the movement of persons in and out of Wuhan.”

The Ministry stated China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs briefed representatives of diplomatic missions in Beijing recently advising them that their nationals who are in Wuhan should remain there and undergo self-imposed quarantine.

The Ministry added, “Embassies were advised that Chinese central and local governments have mobilised resources to address the outbreak, that the Foreign Affairs Office of Hubei Provincial Government would assist foreign nationals in meeting their day-to-day needs and that a special coordination mechanism to entertain requests from diplomatic Missions pertaining to the outbreak has been established.”

China’s Foreign Ministry also advised that staff should not return to their embassies before 3rd February.

The Ministry stated that T&T’s embassy in China continues to remain in close contact with nationals in Hubei Province and advises them to follow the advice of local authorities.

The Ministry stated that the nationals haven’t expressed any desire to be evacuated at this time.

“The evacuation procedure has been explained to them.”

The Ministry added the embassy in Beijing will resume operations on Friday.

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said if and when the two T&T nationals from Hubei Province come to T&T, they’ll undergo full examinations and other tests on their conditions.

“We have full protocols for anyone returning from the areas where Coronavirus was found,” he added.

He said if the nationals now in China return, they’ll undergo screening- not only thermal screening- and will be interviewed on their recent travel and contact history.

This will include questions on whether they’d been in contact with anyone with fever or close to anyone in the Wuhan city where the outbreak began.

They’ll be medically examined and even if they have no signs of the coronavirus they’ll also be monitored for seven to 14 days after their examinations.

“They’ll also be asked to limit contact with people – to self isolate – as other countries have asked of citizens who’ve been to China. If they do show any signs (of the virus) according to case definition, they’ll then be possibly institutionalised and treated there until their condition resolves,” Deyalsingh added.

Guardian Media confirmed the Chinese Ambassador met with the Health Minister on the issue last week.

The Chinese Embassy in T&T has advised Chinese nationals to abide by measures Government may issue on the matter including providing travel/other history.

Opposition’s response

UNC MP Bhoe Tewarie said yesterday, “For the sake of protection of our country and all who live here from the coronavirus, all 120 T&T travellers who were in China should be medically examined and screened on return here before being allowed to join their families and the rest of the population.

“Health and the Immigration divisions should work co-operatively and diligently together on this in the interest of our small, ever vulnerable nation. Moreover, any T&T citizen or resident who’s travelled to any part of China in the last three months and returned home, should be immediately contacted and medically examined/screened as a precaution for everyone’s safety.”

“Out of an abundance of caution, screening shouldn’t be limited to visitors to the city of Wuhan or to Hubei province in China only. Anyone visiting China over the last three months should be screened,” he said.