Armenians stranded in China appealed to Armenia’s government on Tuesday to help evacuate them from the country coping with a new coronavirus that has killed more than 400 people.
According to the Foreign Ministry in Yerevan, an estimated 400 Armenian nationals lived in China before the outbreak of the deadly disease last month. Many of them taught English in Chinese schools and universities.
Ministry officials say that around 200 Armenians have returned home in the last ten days. Others have trouble following suit due to the absence of direct flights between the two countries and the dwindling number of Western, Russian and other airlines flying to China.
Several of them told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that with classes and commercial activity in the country increasingly brought to a halt as part of Chinese government efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus, their employers have terminated their work contracts.
“The roads are blocked,” said Tatevik Martirosian, who has lived and worked in China’s eastern Shandong province in the last few years. “When we get to the airport we don’t know whether or not we’ll be able to board a plane. While staying here, we are spending our money and may end up having no money to fly back to Armenia.”
“Dear compatriots, we want to return home and are asking you to take measures to repatriate us,” she added, speaking via a video link.
“I want to return to Armenia but am unable to do that as there is no transport” said Naira Grigorian, a teacher of a school in another eastern province, Jiangsu. “The school management has told me to wait until February 15. But if this situation continues unabated after February 15 and we remain locked and out of work, then I think we will have a serious problem.”
Anzhela Mikaelian, a resident of the central Chinese city of Xian, told a similar story. “Many Armenian citizens are deciding to leave China without anyone’s advice … They are just unable to do that because many airlines have cancelled flights to China or reduced them to a minimum,” she said.
“Right now the only realistic way to get out of China is the Russian Aeroflot [airline] but there are problems with that as well,” added the young woman. “Not to mention the fact that air ticket prices are skyrocketing each day.”
The Armenian Foreign Ministry said it is now exploring ways of evacuating these and other citizens. It urged the remaining Armenians to contact the Armenian Embassy in Beijing and check flight information before heading to nearby airports.