Dr Zafar Mirza at the IIA. Photo: Twitter

Stranded Pakistanis return from virus-hit China as flight operations resume

Chinese Southern Airlines flight with 57 Pakistanis and 12 Chinese lands at IIA

​ Our Correspondent February 03, 2020
KARACHI: Passenger flights from virus-hit China arrived at the Islamabad International Airport on Monday – repatriating Pakistanis stranded in the country – as flight operations between the two countries resumed.

Flights between the two countries were earlier suspended after the World Health Organisation declared the Wuhan coronavirus as a global health emergency. Pakistan on Friday had halted flights to and from China with immediate effect till February 2.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr Zafar Mirza along with Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing received the 69 passengers.

The passengers arrived via Chinese Southern Airlines CZ6007 and included 57 Pakistanis and 12 Chinese.

Mirza said he and the Chinese diplomat "supervised the implementation of the airport SOPs" and interviewed the passengers.

After a three-day suspension, Pakistan resumed flight operations with the northern neighbour today. Confirming the move, Joint Secretary Aviation Division Abdul Sattar Khokhar said on Sunday that the SCA flights carrying 150 passengers will arrive early Monday at the IIA.

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Pakistan equipped to diagnose coronavirus

On Sunday, Mirza said Pakistan was now equipped to diagnose the mysterious contagion after the arrival of at least 1,000 testing kits from China. He added that as many as 199 health information booths have been set up at various airports to provide answers to queries about the mysterious illness.

“Health information booths have been set up at airports to provide answers to queries about coronavirus and disseminate important standardised information materials.”

According to Dr Mirza, tests would start from Monday (today) at the NIH and within 24 hours the reports would be available.  He announced that more testing kits would arrive from Japan within two days.

Pakistanis in virus-hit Chinese cities

Last week, the federal government said it would not evacuate Pakistani citizens – mostly students – from Wuhan. “We believe it’s in the interest of our loved-ones in China [to stay there]. It’s in the larger interest of the region, the world, and the country that we don’t evacuate them now,” said Mirza.

Almost 500 Pakistanis are studying in various universities of Wuhan, which is in virtual lockdown, while the total number of Pakistani nationals in China is between 28,000 and 30,000 – most of them are students. Mirza disclosed that at least four Pakistani students tested positive for the mysterious pathogen.

The Chinese city of 11 million people in the central Chinese province of Hubei has been quarantined by authorities in an attempt to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The World Health Organization, which this week declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, has said global trade and travel restrictions are not needed.

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Death toll rises

China’s death toll from a 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 epicentre’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.

The World Health Organisation has declared the crisis a global health emergency, and the first foreign death from the virus was reported in the Philippines on Sunday.


The epidemic has led to mass evacuations of foreign citizens as world airlines halt flights, and risks exacerbating a slowdown in growth in the world’s second-largest economy.

Many nations have sent charter flights to repatriate citizens from China and then place them in isolation for around two weeks, believed to be the incubation period of the virus.

More than 100 Germans and family members landed in Frankfurt on Friday, none showing any symptoms of the virus. As of Saturday evening Germany had eight confirmed cases.

Britain, which has had two confirmed cases, said it was withdrawing some staff from its embassy and consulates in China.

On the other hand, the list of international airlines suspending all or some flights to China is growing. Many governments imposing unprecedented travel bans on people coming from China.

The US, Australia, New Zealand and Israel have banned foreign nationals from visiting if they have been in China recently, and they have also warned their own citizens against travelling there. Mongolia, Russia and Nepal have closed their land borders.



(With additional input from Reuters.)


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