LaVana Colebrooke, 29, a Bahamian doctoral student living in Wuhan, China, will be evacuated from the city — the epicenter of the deadly coronavirus — this morning.
“Well, I’m being evacuated through the Americans because I have dual citizenshi[p],” she told The Nassau Guardian via Skype yesterday.
“[T]he Bahamian government, as far as I understood, was unable to evacuate its students.”
Colebrooke, who has been living in Wuhan since 2016, said U.S. officials notified her last week that the government would evacuate her, her sister and her two-year-old niece.
“We were told when to evacuate,” Colebrooke said.
“We got a phone call and we got an email for confirmation and then they told us when to be at the [Wuhan Tianhe International] Airport for evacuation.
“And that’s as far as they tell us…because they have their own method that they do things and they want to make sure that everyone gets there safely and not in a panic.”
Some scientists believe this iteration of the virus, which has never been seen before, originated at a live animal market in Wuhan.
At least 17,238 people are confirmed to have the virus globally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
There have been at least 361 deaths as a result.
Colebrooke is one of five Bahamian students currently stuck in Wuhan, which has been on lockdown since January 23.
She said she feels saddened about leaving the remaining students in the city.
“[M]y prayers are with them,” Colebrooke said.
“At the same time, I know there are some things that I cannot control. I feel bad about leaving all of my friends, actually; those who decided to stay and those who can’t leave.
“I feel bad and it makes me realize people have their systems set up. I mean, when was the last time you had to be evacuated from a country? Was it, like, Vietnam? You know, it is a first in our generation.”
She said living on lockdown became more than “just living”.
“It was survival mode.”
Colebrooke said she found herself becoming strategic about mundane tasks like going for a walk outside.
She said she was “shocked but I wasn’t surprised” to find out that the city would go on lockdown after the outbreak of the virus.
“I just didn’t realize how fast it would happen,” Colebrooke said.
“Living in a city on lockdown, you still find a way to get help because there’s people who love you and are willing to help you.”
She described Wuhan as “not as hopeless and bleak as the media portrays it”.
“You’re still able to survive,” Colebrooke said.
“There’s thousands and millions of Chinese people stuck in Wuhan. They’re going to still have a life.”
There were 160 Bahamians in China when the outbreak occurred.
Asked yesterday whether the government would evacuate Bahamians in China, Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands replied, “This is a matter that has been and continues to be discussed at the very high level with foreign affairs, with immigration, with tourism, with the attorney general’s office.
“At this point, there is no plans to evacuate. It is certainly the advice of the World Health Organization and PAHO that it’s ill-advised.”