–Chinese envoy says no person is allowed to leave China without spending 14 days in quarantine
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan nationals, who were stranded in China amid the deadly coronavirus outbreak, returned home on Monday, a day after flight operations resumed between Islamabad and Beijing.
A total of three flights carrying 143 passengers arrived by noon. Two flights came directly from China while one came from Doha, Qatar.
Speaking at a press conference later in the day, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza clarified that none of the passengers that arrived in the country were suspected to have coronavirus or needed to be kept under observation.
Addressing a press conference alongside Chinese envoy Yao Jing, Mirza highlighted that no citizen, whether Chinese or Pakistani, is allowed to leave China without spending a 14-day “disease-free period”.
“This measure […] has protected the people of our country. The flights that arrived today carried both Pakistani and Chinese citizens who were screened according to the protocol in place.
“We had them [the passengers] sign our special health declaration forms. Therefore, the overall situation [regarding coronavirus] is satisfactory,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Chinese ambassador thanked Pakistan for extending their unwavering support to the country during this difficult time.
He explained that so far people leaving China are being screened over a 14-day period. However, nobody from Hubei province or the city of Wuhan, ground zero for the outbreak, had been allowed to travel domestically or internationally.
“Right now we are not encouraging Chinese citizens to travel abroad,” he said. He added that the Chinese citizens traveling to Pakistan are being traced and monitored by the respective embassies and companies.
FLIGHT OPERATIONS RESUME BETWEEN PAK, CHINA:
Earlier in the day, the first, a Qatar Airlines flight, arrived from Doha, carrying 40 students.
The second flight, a China Southern Airlines flight CZ6007, brought 69 passengers including 57 Pakistanis and 12 Chinese. The flight included members of a group of Pakistani students and community members stranded in Ürümqi due to the suspension of flights in the wake of the new coronavirus outbreak in China. They were earlier granted an 11-day visa extension by Chinese authorities.
The third flight, carrying 86 passengers, also arrived at the Islamabad International Airport, directly from China.
According to aviation officials, a checkup for coronavirus was conducted during which passengers were detained for an hour-and-a-half.
All the passengers were tested for the virus before being allowed to return home. The test results will be sent to the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Islamabad. Until then, all the passengers will be “kept under observation,” officials added.
Pakistan — a day after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the epidemic a global health emergency — on Friday halted all flights to and from China with immediate effect till Feb 2.
On Sunday, Senior Joint Secretary of aviation Abdul Sattar Khokhar told Reuters: “We are resuming flight operations with China; a China Southern Airlines flight with 145 passengers on board will land at 9:00 AM at Islamabad International Airport on Monday.”
SCREENING KIT ARRIVES:
The resumption of flights comes a day after testing kits for the deadly disease reached Pakistan.
Mirza had earlier said that thousands of testing kits had been arranged from multiple sources and hoped that no more kits would be required in the future.
Additionally, all the seven suspected patients of novel coronavirus (NCV) were found to be completely safe.
“Just after getting the kits we decided to test all seven suspects who were kept in isolation wards of hospitals in Karachi, Multan and other cities,” he said. “Fortunately tests of all seven patients were found negative due to which we can surely say that there is no suspect of NCV in Pakistan.”
The testing kits would be provided wherever they were required, he said, adding that now the National Institute of Health had become self-sufficient in diagnosis.
Earlier samples were being sent abroad to confirm if suspected patients were infected with NCV or not.
WHO Pakistan has also provided technical guidance and tools for screening along with laboratory support for the management of NCV cases at federal and provincial levels, according to an official statement.
China’s death toll from the new coronavirus jumped above 360 on Monday to surpass the number of fatalities of its SARS crisis two decades ago, with dozens of people dying in the epicenter’s quarantined ground-zero.
The 57 confirmed new deaths was the single-biggest increase since the virus was detected late last year in the central city of Wuhan, where it is believed to have jumped from animals at a market into humans.
The virus has since spread to more than 24 countries, despite many governments imposing unprecedented travel bans on people coming from China.