ISLAMABAD: The families of Pakistanis stranded in China amid the novel coronavirus (NCV) outbreak have pinned their hopes on the Islamabad High Court (IHC) and decided they will wait to announce their further course of action after a court hearing that was initially scheduled today (Friday) but adjourned until tomorrow (Saturday).
The families held a protest on Wednesday calling for the stranded Pakistani citizens to be evacuated, rejecting arguments put forward by special assistants to the prime minister Syed Zulfiqar Bukhari and Dr Zafar Mirza.
They blocked Margalla Road in F-8 and said they would continue to protest and hold a sit-in outside the Chinese embassy and outside ministries if their concerns are not addressed.
The protest followed a briefing for the families that was arranged on IHC orders to explain why the government decided not to evacuate the citizens.
However, the families refused to listen to the government and took to the road to protest.
Decide to announce further course of action after a court hearing tomorrow
They dispersed later that night after negotiations with the district administration.
Ahmad Abdul Rehman, whose brother Arbaz Abdul Rehman is in China, toldDawnit was unfortunate that the government was not willing to evacuate the Pakistanis.
“It was the IHC that directed the government to hold a briefing for the families but just after the start of briefing we were told that the students would not be brought from China. That is why we reacted and held the sit-in. We do not have any expectation from the government due to which we are hoping that only the IHC will address the issue,” he said.
He said that the next court hearing was adjourned for Saturday due to the ill health of IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah.
“We will announce our next line of action after the hearing of the case,” Mr Rehman said.
470,000 passengers screened for coronavirus
Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Health Services (NHS) Dr Zafar Mirza revealed on Thursday that 470,000 passengers have been screened at ports of entry across the country by trained health officers.
During a meeting on the coronavirus outbreak, he said there have not been any cases of coronavirus in Pakistan.
The meeting was attended by NHS Secretary Dr Allah Bakhsh Malik, National Institute of Health (NIH) Executive Director Maj Gen Dr Aamer Ikram, representatives of the army and so on.
The meeting received a detailed briefing on various aspects of preparedness and response.
Dr Mirza said that incoming passengers are being screened at ports of entry into Pakistan.
“A high level of vigilance is being maintained. On Feb 18, 14,879 passengers were screened by fully trained health officers at ports of entry. All passengers arriving from China are being followed up by a dedicated teams of doctors from NIH. We are prepared to address any eventuality as per the World Health Organisation’s guidelines and international health regulations,” he said.
He added that an awareness campaign in collaboration with the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority was underway while the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority was assisting and sending awareness messages to incoming passengers from China.
An outbreak of a novel coronavirus named COVID-19 was first reported in Wuhan, China, on Dec 31, 2019. The WHO is working with global experts, governments and partners to rapidly expand scientific knowledge of this new virus, to track its spread and virulence and provide advice to countries and individuals on measures to protect health and prevent the spread of this outbreak.
Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2020