ISLAMABAD: Pakistanis stranded in China started arriving after resumption of flight operations in the virus-hit country as three planes carrying 235 passengers, including 11 Chinese, landed at Islamabad International Airport on Monday.
As 17,000 people have been infected with novel coronavirus (NCV) in over two dozen countries and more than 350 have died, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing declared it war against humanity. “We have to win this war and we have determination and confidence to overcome this plague. Moreover, there are just 538 Pakistanis in [NCV-hit] Wuhan city, which has a population of around 11 million, and we are treating them as they are our own people,” he said at a press conference with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza.
Mr Yao said since more people were being cured as compared to deaths, things would improve in the coming days. “We are thankful for the support and cooperation by the government and people of Pakistan. We have identified every Pakistani in Wuhan and they are being looked after. We are also thankful to media which has guided us,” he said, adding: “People-to-people contact is a major challenge as it is becoming reason for contamination in people. We are in contact with the World Health Organisation (WHO) which has declared international health emergency.”
Three flights carrying 235 passengers, including 11 Chinese nationals, land at Islamabad airport
In reply to a question about Chinese in Pakistan, Mr Yao said China was not encouraging its people to travel abroad, but those coming to Pakistan would be quarantined in China and even monitored in Pakistan for two weeks after their arrival. He said NCV was a new disease and China had started research work to find medicine and vaccine against the virus.
Dr Mirza announced that Pakistan had got the ability to diagnose NCV as all the seven suspects in the country tested negative. “Flight operation from China has resumed and I myself went to Islamabad airport and received passengers. There was no suspect in them as it has been decided that no Chinese and Pakistani can leave China without quarantine of two weeks. Our people and children are saved because of this decision,” he said.
A senior immigration official told Dawn that a total of 235 people in three flights had arrived in Pakistan on the first day of resumption of flight operations in China. The first flight arrived with 61 passengers onboard, including 50 Pakistanis and 11 Chinese, the second with 82 Pakistanis and the third with 92 passengers from Beijing and Urumqi.
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had established three separate counters at the airport for immigration clearance.
On arrival, a questioner was given to the travellers. The questioner contained demographic information about the passengers, travel history, health status (fever, cough and difficulty in breathing).
Ahead of the flights arrival, the PM’s special assistant reviewed the arrangement for screening of the passengers coming from China. “At Islamabad airport this morning – received passengers from China along with HE Chinese ambassador in CZ 6007 brought 61 passengers including 50 Pakistani and 11 Chinese. We supervised implementation of ‘Airport SOPs’ and interviewed passengers,” Dr Mirza tweeted.
“At all airports, screening systems have been strengthened and Pakistan government is prepared for any emergency situation as the health department has facilities for detecting the virus-affected cases,” he added.
The second flight from China landed at Islamabad airport with a group of Pakistani students onboard. They had been stranded in Urumqi due to halt in flights since the outbreak of coronavirus in China.
Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan also visited Islamabad International Airport on Monday to oversee precautionary measures taken by the Civil Aviation Authority and interacted with health officials. He expressed satisfaction over the arrangements made by the CAA at all major airports of the country for diagnosis and screening of coronavirus.
The minister was later briefed by officials of the aviation division and CAA on the status of ongoing and upcoming projects.
Published in Dawn, February 4th, 2020