Workers would be quarantined for 14 days being being sent to construction sites, say officials. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

First batch of Chinese CPEC workers returning to Pakistan since virus outbreak

Engineers and other staff would be quarantined for 14 days before being sent to construction sites, say officials

Rameez Khan March 19, 2020
LAHORE: As many as 145 Chinese engineers and other staff members working on several China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects will arrive in Pakistan on Friday since the outbreak of novel coronavirus, The Express Tribune has learnt.

To ensure continuity of under construction CPEC projects, the first-batch consisting of engineers and top management staff members deputed on hydro power and road construction projects, which is widely believed to be the origin city of COVID-19, will land in Islamabad tomorrow morning (Friday), according to Chinese state-owned construction and engineering company, Gezhouba.

To ensure their safety, an official of the company said that the workers will be flown via charter plane and of those, 145 staffers of the company had been kept in isolation for 52 days to ensure none of them is infected.

The officials also said that as part of precautionary measures four houses in Islamabad F-6 area have been converted into isolation centres where "these engineers and staffers would be kept for 12 to 14 days before they will be sent to their project sites".

Furthermore, the officials said the company has developed their in house medical facility for safety of their staffers in Pakistan.
Gezhouba Group Company is a Wahun-based firm, which was among the worst coronavirus hit area, has 11,000 Chinese nationals working for CPEC projects in Pakistan.

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Wuhan, locked down since Jan 23, is currently the only city in Hubei province still designated “high-risk” and subject to strict travel bans, even as restrictions across the rest of the country have loosened in recent weeks.

Thousands of Chinese working on CPEC projects had gone to their homeland last year to celebrate their festival known as spring break earlier this year and could not return to Pakistan due to coronavirus outbreak in China.

According to the officials, the Chinese workers are returning to Pakistan for the smooth continuation of CPEC projects and to show solidarity with the brotherly state.

The return of workers is also a reciprocation of recent visit of President Dr Arif Alvi to Beijing where he met his Chinese counterpart and the country's top leadership.

China has successfully managed to contain coronavirus and life in the country would soon be returning to normalcy, they added.

The Wuhan city relaxed quarantine rules slightly on Thursday, allowing people to walk in their compounds rather than staying confined to living quarters, state-run CCTV reported.

If no new case is reported for 14 consecutive days, the lockdown could gradually be lifted, the China Daily newspaper said, citing an epidemiologist.

Despite several attempts, media officials of the CPEC authority were not available for the comments.


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