Adelani Adepegba, Abuja
Seventy-two Nigerians awaiting evacuation in Guangzhou city, Guangdong Province of China have tested positive for the coronavirus disease.
The results of the tests conducted on 56 Nigerians, which were released on Tuesday, indicated that the affected individuals were asymptomatic, raising concern that they might have infected other people.
It was learnt that that 16 Nigerians had earlier tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number to 72.
65 contacts being traced
The Chinese authorities explained that 65 persons who had contact with the positive cases were being traced.
The Foreign Affairs Office of Guangzhou Municipal People’s Government disclosed this in a note verbale (diplomatic correspondence) to the Nigerian Consulate in Guangzhou dated April 22, 2020.
The note, which was also copied to the Nigerian Embassy in China, as well as the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria, indicated that 16 Nigerians had earlier been confirmed positive.
The correspondence sighted by our correspondent on Wednesday read in part, “According to the data by the Guangzhou Municipal Health Commission on April 21, there are currently 16 confirmed cases and 56 positive test cases among Nigerian citizens in Guangzhou, as well as 65 cases of contact.
“We invite the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in Guangzhou to supervise Nigerian citizens in Guangzhou so they can abide by the law of the People’s Republic of China on the prevention and control of infectious diseases.”
“Asian citizens understand Guangzhou’s epidemic prevention and control; work and cooperate with China’s political support.”
The note verbal was written in Mandarin and translated into English using Google Translate.
The 56 citizens are part of the over 2,000 Nigerians from China, the United States, United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and other countries, who had indicated interest in returning to Nigeria on account of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Federal Government had announced plans to evacuate Nigerians in China first following complaints of racism and stigmatisation against them by Chinese officials in Guangzhou.
This was sequel to a viral video showing Nigerians being evicted from their hotels and apartments.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, had summoned the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr Zhou Pingjian, twice last week to register Nigeria’s displeasure over the incident.
The PUNCH also learnt that the acting Nigerian Consul-General, Mr Razaq Lawal, had gone on self-isolation having mingled with the affected Nigerians during their protest against the Chinese authorities.
Lawal could not be reached for comment on Wednesday as his mobile line was unavailable.
4,553 Africans undergoing tests
Our correspondent further gathered that 111 other African nationals also tested positive for Covid-19 during the ongoing tests of 4,553 Africans in Guangzhou city.
Apart from the Africans, reports said that a total of 30,768 foreigners were currently staying in the city, mainly from South Korea (4,600), Japan (2,987), the US, (2,724), Canada (1,832) and Russia (1,422).
This is aside 50,000 others who had yet to return to Guangzhou due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The number of non-Africans who tested positive for the virus could not be immediately ascertained.
However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, Ferdinand Nwoye, said he was not aware of the diplomatic correspondence from the Chinese authorities.
He promised to find out from the Nigerian consulate in Guangzhou.
After one hour, Nwoye said, “Lawal did not respond to my calls; maybe it’s because of the time difference. I will provide an update tomorrow (today).”