28-eight-year-old Michael Njomo arrived in Wuhan city last September.
He applied for a competitive scholarship to study administrative management and was awarded it after several attempts.
The new coronavirus emerged just when he was settling in at Huazhong University of Science and Technology.
The WhatsApp group for Kenyan students in China stopped talking about academics, and started checking on each other and sharing information about the disease.
He says the death toll kept rising and before he knew it, the city was under lockdown. He says he and his colleagues are afraid to circulate in the city.
“Some of them are very scared here in their rooms, like the whole day they remain indoors,” he said. “Those are the directions we have been given by the authorities here, to avoid much interaction.
“If you pay much attention on that [the death toll], I don’t know what will happen to you because there is so much information from different people. The more you listen to them, the more you pay attention, the more scared you become.”
Njomo and his colleagues spoke to VOA via a WhatsApp call from a room they said they shared.
Some countries have started evacuating their many thousands of citizens stranded in Wuhan. Njomo and other Kenyans are still not sure of their fate but are hopeful.
“If a situation comes that we can be evacuated from Wuhan to a safer place, everybody will accept that. Maybe somewhere like the embassy, somewhere like Beijing is ok. It’s not that far from Wuhan to Beijing, but I don’t know what plans our ambassador has for us,” he said.
John (not his real name), a final year student of engineering at Huazhong University, was meant to come home in the next couple of months.
He questions Kenya’s capacity to deal with the virus if it made its way to the country and said he preferred they stay in China.
“Of course everyone would love to go back home, but again you look at where your home is, and you are also not sure of your status regarding the disease,” he said. “To me, I think its better just to stay here and ensure that I am safe wherever I am because you might go back home and take it to everyone and as you know, at home, facilities are not that good to handle the situation.”
Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs says 85 Kenyans are stuck in Wuhan.
In a press statement, the ministry said the Kenyan Embassy in Beijing is in touch with the Kenyan citizens who have been affected by the lockdown in Wuhan.
Meanwhile, the number of deaths from a coronavirus epidemic in China has risen by 46 to 259, the country’s health authority said on Saturday.
The central province of Hubei, the center of the epidemic, is under a virtual quarantine, with roads sealed off and public transport shut down.
Elsewhere in China, authorities have placed restrictions on travel and business activity in a bid to contain the spread of the virus.
In its latest figures, China’s National Health Commission said there were 2,102 new confirmed infections in China on Friday, bringing the cumulative total to 11,791.
Around two dozen other countries have reported confirmed cases of the virus.
Amid growing international concern, Singapore and the United States announced measures on Friday to restrict entry to foreign nationals who have recently been in China.
The World Health Organization this week declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern and reiterated global trade and travel restrictions were not needed.
Report by VOA and Reuters
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