Coronavirus: PNG student in China calls for evacuation

A Papua New Guinea student in Shanghai is calling on his government to evacuate students stranded in China by the Wuhan coronavirus.

Out of fear, Ben Mendel had booked a flight back to PNG through the Philippines but found it had been cancelled when he arrived at the airport.

"Because of the virus, I tried to go back to PNG to stay with my parents and once the situation here is a little bit okay, I planned to come back," Mr Mendel said.

"Unfortunately that didn't eventuate because of the flight ban in Manila."

Promised only a 45 percent refund by the airline, the first year student returned to his school, the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.

But having left the locked down campus he was put into quarantine.

"I'm not in my room. I was given an isolated place in another room so I will stay here for 14 days then they will ask me to go back to my original room," he said.

"It's okay, they provide me food and mealstuffs so I'm good now but I don't feel comfortable staying here because I'm not living in my actual room.

"But no problem, it's quite okay. I'm happy about that because other people's safety is more important than me so I accept this situation."

Other PNG students in Shanghai have not been as fortunate. Mr Mendel said he met four of his countrymen at the airport, hoping to catch the cancelled flight.

"All the universities they are strict, telling people not to go out. If you want to go out, you go out for good. Some universities don't accept students back."

'We fear for our lives and we cannot go out'

Fear for their lives had driven the students to the airport through an eerily quiet city.

"You can't go out without masks... I'm not sure whether this mask we are putting on is a safe one but we have masks. When you want to leave your room you have to put your mask on," Mr Mendel said.

"Shanghai is the busiest place but just because of this coronavirus most streets were quite empty. The trains, the metro and the bus - business is not usual - it was quite empty...quite scary."

With the semester that was due to start in the middle of February postponed indefinitely, Mr Mendel said he wanted the PNG government to "rescue" its students who were now in limbo across China.

"We seriously need the government to evacuate the students here in China. Not only from Wuhan and the affected province but other parts of China as we are having the same problem," he said.

"I wrote a letter to the Health Department...To date, I haven't received any reply from the government of Papua New Guinea. We really need government intervention now because we can't do much. Most of the students, our flights were cancelled...We fear for our lives and we cannot go out.

"We need the government to intervene and rescue us from here now."