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New Zealander stranded in Wuhan

Tuesday 28 January 2020 | Published in Small World


A New Zealand citizen trapped at the epicentre of China’s coronavirus outbreak is pleading with the government to do more to get New Zealanders out.

Joanna Zhang– who works as a software engineer in New York – travelled to Wuhan on 20 January to visit her father for the Chinese New Year.

She’s now stuck in the locked-down city and has not left the house for five days for fear of catching the deadly virus.

Joanna, told RNZ’s Checkpoint she had tried to seek assistance from the New Zealand embassy in Beijing, but was told they were on holiday until Wednesday.

After calling an emergency hotline, she was directed to register online at and to wait for further details, she said.

“I feel a little disappointed since many other countries are taking action already, but it seems like the New Zealand government is falling behind.”

“The United States has arranged for its citizens to be evacuated from the city and Australia is exploring plans to follow suit.

Japan is expected to arrange a charter fligh or any of its citizens who wish to return from Wuhan.

Chinese authorities last week took the unprecedented step of imposing an indefinite ban on travel outside of the city to contain the spread of the virus.

Joanna said she was “very worried” for herself and her elderly father’s safety.

“It’s quite scary here. There’s all kinds of rumours online and there’s a shortage of medical supplies. If we go outside, we cannot buy masks anywhere.

“There’s also a shortage of food. A lot of shelves are empty.

“And all public transportation has stopped. Even motor vehicles are banned. No private or commercial vehicles are allowed on the road.”

As such, she and her father were staying indoors and being very careful about hygiene.

“We have disinfectant liquid which we spray around the house every day. And we are taking Vitamin C pills and eating chicken soup to boost our immune system.”

Her father was a New Zealand permanent resident, but did not want to leave the country at this stage, she said.

“I don’t have any plans. I don’t know how long the travel ban will last,” Joanna said.

“I’m supposed to go back to work next week in New York. I’ve told my company that I might not be able to go back to work in time.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has received a small number of requests for consular assistance from New Zealanders in Wuhan City and Hubei Province, and the embassy in Beijing is providing assistance to these individuals and families.

A spokesperson said that for privacy reasons, MFAT did not comment on individual cases.

There are currently 21 New Zealanders registered as being in Wuhan City on SafeTravel.

“We are aware that some countries are providing their citizens with assistance to depart Wuhan.

We are working closely with our China Posts and consular partner countries regarding how best to assist New Zealanders in Wuhan,” MFAT said in a statement.

It’s reminding New Zealanders they must comply with all Chinese laws, rules and regulations including the travel restrictions imposed by the Chinese authorities to contain the virus.