Coronavirus: Kiwi trapped in Wuhan fears for baby's health

The AM Show 30/01/2020

A Kiwi trapped in Wuhan says he is fearful for his baby's health, as the city battles to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Henk Schotsman arrived in Wuhan earlier this month to visit family and celebrate Chinese New Year.  But instead of having a relaxing holiday, Schotsman found himself at ground zero of the coronavirus outbreak.

"It's a nightmare," Schotsman told The AM Show on Thursday. "It's not a situation you want to be in."

Around 6000 cases of the virus have been confirmed so far, with 132 deaths recorded.

Although Schotsman is not concerned for the safety of himself or his partner, he says his nine-month-old child is a lot more vulnerable. 

The worst-case scenario is that my baby gets sick.

"We have no medical supplies here for my baby," he said. "But if our baby gets any form of sickness we really don't want to take him to the hospital."

Schotsman is Dutch and has permanent residency in New Zealand. His son is a New Zealand passport holder. 

Although he and his family are able to move around the city freely, it still feels like they are under house arrest, he says.

 "We can go out if we want to, by foot, but we don't want to be in touch with anyone who might be infected - to minimise the risk of infecting our baby."

With no end to the outbreak in sight, Schotsman is pleading with the Government to do more to help its citizens. 

"We've seen Japan and the US evacuating their people, Europe is sending planes, so why can't the New Zealand Government get some planes on the ground here? We really need direct communication from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade - not only to my family but to other families here because all the news we get is through the media."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told The AM Show on Thursday that more than 100 Kiwis in Wuhan had registered on SafeTravel. But organising the evacuation of our citizens is not an easy task, she said.

"The issue at the moment of course is that everyone is trying to get in and get people out... You have to get permission for planes to land - there's quite a bit to work through."

Ardern confirmed on Wednesday that New Zealand would work with Australia to get citizens of both countries out.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters on Wednesday that plans to evacuate 600 Australians were being prepared. Those pulled out would be placed in quarantine on Christmas Island for up to 14 days, he said.

Ardern would not say whether Kiwis evacuated would also be sent to Christmas Island. 

Schotsman said he had "full trust" in the Government, but the lack of answers was frustrating.

"I absolutely believe they are trying the best they can, but they can't answer my questions. Why can other countries get planes on the ground and we can't?"

He has been calling the embassy every day looking for updates, but has yet to receive any solid information on the situation.

"I'm asking if they can't tell me or if they don't know, and the answer is they don't know. And it's concerning, to be honest." 

Coronavirus has spread to more than a dozen countries around the world. Earlier this week, the Ministry of Health warned that there was a high likelihood it would reach New Zealand but that the probability of a community outbreak was low.

There have been no confirmed cases of the virus here yet.

The AM Show / Newshub reporter James Fyfe