BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Abd Najib Hj Abd Ladi had only one semester left in his course at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan when the coronavirus outbreak began. 

The 26-year-old Bruneian undergrad had been studying in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei province, for 18 months under a Chinese government scholarship.

Since the virus emerged in Wuhan last December, it has rapidly taken hold over China, spreading from Hubei to the far reaches of the country, and outward across East Asia and the rest of the world.

The World Health Organization declared the pandemic a global health emergency on January 30.

The virus has claimed over 1,100 lives in 25 countries — the vast majority in China — with a further 44,200 infected with the deadly virus strain.

Abd Najib and another 40-year-old Bruneian man were evacuated from Wuhan on February 7. Since touching down back home they have been under quarantine at the National Isolation Centre in Tutong as a precaution, although both men show no symptoms of the virus. 

Into his second day of a 14-day of quarantine, Abd Najib shared his experience with The Scoop via a video interview over Whatsapp. 

“My friends from other countries were evacuated earlier, meanwhile I was still in Wuhan. My Bruneian friends who are studying outside of Wuhan, such as in Beijing and Shanghai, have taken it upon themselves to go back to Brunei since January 28.

“There was nothing I could do because access in and out of Wuhan via air and land was shut down,” he said.

 Abd Najib describes the situation on the ground in Wuhan:


Access to Wuhan, the centre of the coronavirus epidemic, has been severely limited since January 23 when the Chinese government ordered all public access to the city to be shut down. The city’s 11 million people were ordered to stay indoors and limit their interactions with others. 

“The situation in Wuhan was chilling… The stillness that you see on social media is real. Because the coronavirus spreads quickly and can also affect healthy individuals, so I had to limit my time outside,” Abd Najib said. 

The student had to buy food in bulk, enough to last one to two weeks while he locked himself in his room.

“None of my close friends in Wuhan are infected by the virus. My roommate had been evacuated earlier so it was just me in the room. There was less chance for infection.” 

However, he soon discovered he was running low on food. 

“The grocery stores were running out of stock and from there, I could see how serious the situation was. I was under pressure thinking about how to survive this.”

Abd Najib on food stocks running low in Wuhan: 


Abd Najib waited 16 days to be evacuated while government authorities worked on bringing the two Bruneians home. 

He remained in close contact with the Brunei Embassy in Beijing during that time and finally boarded a Royal Brunei Airlines flight home on Friday, February 7.

The pair arrived in Brunei on Saturday at 2.45am and were immediately taken to the National Isolation Centre for quarantine.

The 26-year-old thanked His Majesty’s government for its efforts to evacuate them safely, and also expressed his gratitude to his family, friends and the public who prayed for his safe return.

With just one semester left in his degree, Abd Najib said he plans to return to Wuhan once the situation settles down.