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Coronavirus: Senegalese students in Wuhan will not be repatriated

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Senegal's President Macky Sall addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019, at the United Nations headquarters.
Senegal's President Macky Sall addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019, at the United Nations headquarters.   -   Copyright  Frank Franklin II/AP
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After the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the coronavirus a "public health emergency of international dimensions", many African governments took restrictive measures within their own borders, from sanitary precautions in several countries to lockdown in Ghana.

The Senegalese government decided not to repatriate its citizens who are students in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicentre of the pandemic.

President Macky Sall declared that repatriation was not possible due to "logistics completely out of Senegal's reach."

"Senegal does not have the technical, logistical and financial means," he said.

The announcement led to angry reactions on social media, especially from parents and relatives of the students.

Bécaye Cissokho Ndiaye, President of the Senegalese Students Association in China, told French Radio RFI that there were still 13 Senegalese students remaining in Wuhan.

"On our level, we don't think about ourselves, because what worries us is our fellow countrymen who are in Wuhan, because they are more under threat. We have a representative there who we speak to frequently. We are pretty calm over here in Beijing, though," he said.

Ndiaye also criticised President Sall's inaction in a tweet on March, 14. "I can assure you that there are at least hundreds of contaminated people peacefully wandering around in Senegal," he wrote.

Ibrahima Niang, a PhD student in Wuhan, said the Senegalese government offered the students US$1,000 each as help, which they refused to accept.

"How could they propose to each of us this amount and keep saying they do not have the financial means? We do not need their money, we just want to go home," Niang said.

Senegal under heavy restrictions

On March, 14, after Senegal reported its 20th coronavirus case, President Sall decided to strengthen restrictive measures.

The government banned public gatherings for the next 30 days, and cancelled religious events. Schools and universities were closed on Monday, and cruise ships were no longer allowed into Senegalese ports.

Anti European sentiment

Many in Senegal are convinced the virus was brought into the country by Italian and French visitors. This tweet, for instance, claims "After the Italians in Nigeria and the French in Senegal, there is another French person who came to Cameroon with the coronavirus."

Local media has also contributed to the sentiment. Le Pays, a daily newspaper in Burkinabe reported "While some ten countries on the continent have confirmed cases here and there, the cases revealed are, for the most part, those of European travellers migrating on the African continent."

Another newspaper, L'Evidence, questioned if France had "coronised" the country.