As I listen to reports of the progress of the coronavirus in Wuhan, I cant help thinking of the SARS outbreak in Feb 2003.
A mainland guest at a hotel just seven doors away from our residence introduced SARS to Hong Kong and started the international alarm.
We had 40 Aitece volunteer teachers in China at the time, four of them in Wuhan though it was not seen as a centre of the outbreak then. While other Westerners pulled out, all our teachers volunteered to stay in China though they were confined to their campus. Fortunately all escaped infection.
At present there are five Aitece teachers assigned to Wuhan, two of them Irish. However they had left for the winter break early in January and are now wondering when it will be safe for them to return.
Irish missionaries have a special connection with Wuhan. It was in Hanyang, one of the three divisions of the city, that Bishop Edward Galvin and his comrades from the newly founded Columban Missionaries established their first Chinese diocese in 1920. Before they were expelled from there in 1952 they endured recurring cycles of floods and military attacks. The outbreak of the coronavirus is just another in the list of disasters that have dogged Wuhan.
Columbans and ex-Aitece teachers have many friends and co-workers in Wuhan and pray for their safety and the city’s quick return to normality.
Photo 1 The pop-up hospital being constructed for Coronavirus victims in Wuhan.
2. The ‘SARS Hotel’ in Hong Kong, five doors from the Columban Apartment, where the SARS outbreak began in Hong Kong in 2003.