As of the 5th of April, Africans living across Guangdong province have reported either being contacted by their schools or building management to undergo testing, or having people dressed in hazmat suits appear at their doorsteps and proceed to test them.
(A screenshot of one of the several videos seen recently online)
Understandably this is causing distress and panic amongst many in the community, with varying reports on what the process includes and why its happening. But when we are this far away from home, some things are unavoidable. In the interest of better understanding this situation, knowing our rights and ultimately keeping the peace, we have spoken to those in direct communication with the authorities to find out how we should be handling this.
On April 5th, a cohort of representatives of the various African communities in China met with Guangdong Public security Bureau Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss some of the challenges being faced in light of COVID-19. Many across the community were relieved to see engagement between our host nation and representatives of our respective nations/communities, but several of us were still left with some questions.
The president of the Nigerian community in China, Mr Maximus Ogbonna, has kindly agreed to share the outcomes of this meeting and recommended course of action for all those affected.
Below is a list of some of the most common questions and comments so far.
1. Why have these tests started now?
Put frankly there is increasing fear and worry in the region about a second wave of cases. Because many associate this with foreigners, they are testing to make sure they are clear.
2. Are non-Africans being tested? Is this for foreigners in general?
As far as I know, they are going from house to house
3. Is this for all of Guangzhou or are other cities included?
I have received calls about this happening all over Guangdong province, including Shenzhen and Dongguan
4. Are there any plans to roll this out into other cities?
The meeting was specific to Guangdong province so we can’t be sure.
5. Are people allowed to refuse to give them their passports?
The concerns of the authorities should only be the virus. We were told that they should not request passports but reports are varying. Different places, different rules.
6. Besides our embassies, is there anyone else we can contact for support?
Foreigners should only seek assistance from embassies or consulates in this matter. They are the best place to help. Besides this, the representatives of each African nation community in China do try to provide the latest information handed down directly from local authorities.
7. If we can prove that we haven’t left china since the virus begun do we still need to take the test?
The issue is not just travelling history, but also contact. Because of the 30 cases reported in the African community, the authorities are now checking to make sure it has not spread further.
With thanks to Maximus Ogbonna for relaying these messages.
These are trying times, and we hope these insights help each and every one of us stay safe. While there will be a time to discuss both our feelings and the degree to which these measures are justified, right now ensuring our own safety as foreigners is paramount. These tips and information are designed to give some background to the situation at present – stay safe!