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‘Disheartening’

A Bahamian living in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the new coronavirus, said she is dismayed to hear that some Bahamians don’t want her to return home.

Luanettee Colebrooke, 31, a Bahamian doctoral student living in Wuhan, said reading some of the posts made by Bahamians on Facebook is “disheartening”.

“What we need is a lot of support from back home because it’s difficult looking on Facebook and seeing some people saying, ‘Stay there (in Wuhan). Don’t bring that here. Don’t come back, wait until it passes,’” Colebrooke told The Nassau Guardian via Skype on Friday.

“It’s very disheartening. We come here to better ourselves, to better our skills so we can come home to help everybody there as well.

“But, hearing those words instead of ‘We’re here for you,’ ‘We support you,’ ‘How can we assist you?’”

Colebrooke said “hearing all of that negativity towards us is very disheartening”.

“It’s very disheartening and it lowers our morale and you know…mental clarity is so important to us during this time especially being indoors,” she said.

“So, I would want to see our public, our community, encourage us just like how the embassy is encouraging us here, just how our small Bahamian community here in China is encouraging each other. We want to see that back home as well among our own people and to hear it louder.”

Some scientists believe the virus, which has never been seen before, originated at a live animal market in Wuhan.

At least 17,205 people are confirmed to have the virus globally, according to the Who Health Organization (WHO).

There have been at least 361 deaths as a result.

Colebrooke is one of millions of people in Wuhan currently on lockdown.

The city of 11 million people has been on lockdown since January 23.

“I am not afraid,” she told The Guardian

“The only reason I am not afraid is because a lot of the population has left during the mass migration for Chinese New Year. In recent years, after having a child, I’m a little bit of an introvert.

“So, I tend to stay home anyway after working or going to school. I have to take care of her. I’m not scared because my population in my community is very little and it’s farther away from where the initial outbreak began and everybody around here is wearing masks. I smell bleach in the hallways and in the elevators.”

Asked if she would evacuate the city if given the opportunity, Colebrooke replied, “To protect my little one, I would. She’s only 22 months so I would do what I have to do to protect her.”

There were 160 Bahamians in China when the outbreak occurred.

However, last week, Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands said the government will not be evacuating those individuals.

On Saturday, when asked why the government had made that decision, Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest told The Guardian, “The reality is that we don’t have the capacity to do that without [leading to] other significant considerations or challenges to be overcome.”

Since the start of the coronavirus epidemic, Colebrooke, the mother of a toddler, said every trip to the grocery store is like a mission of survival.

“I get our masks on,” she said.

“I get a bag. I have the sanitizer. I have the diapers in my bag. I mean I wouldn’t change her out there but you never know, you have a child. I strap her to my body. I don’t want anybody near her.

“I want to be able to just jump away if somebody comes even close so I keep her close to my body or I keep her in a stroller with a blanket or a plastic covering over her while we’re wearing our masks.”

She said she has limited her interactions with the few people on the streets of Wuhan.

“I’m so keen on my mission [to] just to go out and come back as quick as possible,” said Colebrooke, whose younger sister also lives in the city.

“I don’t focus on the presence of everything.”

Colebrooke said the Bahamas embassy in China been both supportive and helpful during the lockdown.

“The embassy calls and checks up on us,” she said.

“The individual that is in charge currently to oversee us, Ms. Misty Bain, she has been calling and checking up on us and the students that are in this little vicinity in Wuhan or Hubei…”

She added, “…She checks up on us and makes sure, ‘Okay, do you need more water? Do you need more food? How can we get these to you?’”

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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