Coronavirus fear: GB seeks delay in opening of border crossing

Published January 27, 2020
A large number of students from Balochistan are studying in different Chinese universities while hundreds of traders dealing in import and export travel to China from the province every month. — Reuters
A large number of students from Balochistan are studying in different Chinese universities while hundreds of traders dealing in import and export travel to China from the province every month. — Reuters

GILGIT / ISLAMABAD: The Gilgit Baltistan (GB) government has sought delay in the opening of Pakistan-China border crossing point at Khunjerab Pass scheduled for February as part of precautionary measures to stop coronavirus’s possible entry into Pakistan from China.

The GB home department has requested the federal government to delay the opening of Khunjerab Pass, the highest border crossing point between Pakistan and China.

Meanwhile, the Balochistan government has started taking precautionary measures to prevent entry of coronavirus in the province and the provincial health department has constituted a 14-member technical committee to deal with situation.

Under the border protocol agreement 1985, Khunjerab border crossing remains open from end November to April next year. Trade and travel activities between the two countries take place through Khunjerab Pass.

On Jan 22, the federal ministry of foreign affairs through a letter had requested the Chinese government to open Khunjerab Pass from Feb 2 to Feb 8 this year to facilitate entry of over 200 Chinese containers from Xinjiang province of China to Pakistan.

Isolation ward set up in Quetta hospital

The containers got stuck in China as they could not be sent to Pakistan from China before closure of the border crossing on Nov 30 last year.

However, due to the outbreak of coronavirus and the fear of its spread to other countries, the GB authorities had sought delay in the opening of the pass.

As GB is Pakistan’s closest region to China, precautionary measures are needed to prevent any possible threat of the spread of the disease to Pakistan.

An official told Dawn the GB health department has directed the director health and DHO of Hunza to depute staff, medicine and an ambulance at the pass for checking people entering Pakistan from China.

It has also been decided to enhance screening people entering Pakistan through the pass.

According to a document available with Dawn, so far 2,017 cases have been reported from 15 countries including China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, United State, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia, France, Nepal, Malaysia and Canada.

It shows that so far 56 deaths have been reported in China and not a single casualty has been reported in any other country across the globe.

According to a statement issued by Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday, the ministry and the Pakistan Embassy in China are actively monitoring the situation of coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan. The Embassy in Beijing and other sub-missions in China are also in touch with the Pakistani community as well as Chinese authorities.

“Over 500 students and other community members in Wuhan, and in other parts of China, are safe. There is no report of infection in any Pakistani community member thus far. The community has been reassured of full support and requested to follow health protocols issued by the Chinese authorities and stay indoors,” the statement says.

Pakistani students and community members in China have been advised to regularly visit the embassy’s website www.pakbj.org. Those who are not yet registered are also being encouraged to register with the embassy online.

Pakistani citizens in China and those who want to know about their loved ones can contact Embassy of Pakistan, Beijing, at +8618501322992 and +8615652889195.

Meanwhile the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) on Sunday said again that there was no confirmed case of NVC in Pakistan.

Technical committee

In Quetta, the authorities have decided to establish an isolation ward in Fatima Jinnah Chest and General Hospital to house any suspected victim of coronavirus.

A large number of students from Balochistan are studying in different Chinese universities while hundreds of traders dealing in import and export travel to China from the province every month.

It has been decided that such traders and students would be examined at Quetta airport on their return from China.

According to an official notification, the technical committee will comprise senior officials of the health department as well as representatives of the World Health Organisation and Unicef.

The committee will meet on daily basis to analyse the situation and implement required measures. It will help in establishing an isolation ward for the victims at Fatima Jinnah Chest Hospital and collect information and data about coronavirus with epidemiological analysis and also establish corona surveillance system.

Saleem Shahid in Quetta also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2020

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