No Pakistanis in China affected by coronavirus — Pakistan’s envoy to Beijing

Pakistani students attend a class at Yanshan University in Qinhuangdao, Hebei Province, China Dec. 14, 2017. (Photo Courtesy: VCG Photo/File)
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Updated 15 March 2020

No Pakistanis in China affected by coronavirus — Pakistan’s envoy to Beijing

  • Says no Pakistanis in China infected with disease so far
  • Over 28,000 Pakistani students and over 2,000 traders frequent cities across China

ISLAMABAD: Amid heightened panic among thousands of Pakistanis in China during the early days of a deadly coronavirus outbreak, Pakistan’s envoy to Beijing said on Sunday no Pakistanis in the country had been affected by the disease so far, while urging calm.
There are over 28,000 Pakistani students studying all over China, 800 resident traders and 1,500 Pakistani traders who travel to China frequently. In Wuhan alone, the epicentre of the outbreak, there are at least 500 Pakistani students present, according to foreign office figures released on Saturday.
But in a video statement circulated to the Pakistani community and students in China, Pakistani ambassador Naghmana Alamgir Hashmi called for restraint in spreading false information on social media.
“No Pakistani in China has been affected by coronavirus so far. Please avoid sharing any unconfirmed reports or rumors on social media as this can create panic in the families back in Pakistan,” Hashmi said, and added that the Chinese government had announced it would automatically renew all visas that expired after Jan. 23 without any charges.
“The Pakistan mission is fully aware of the problems faced by Pakistanis in China due to coronavirus outbreak and trying its best to facilitate its nationals,” she said.
She also asked all Pakistanis to avoid going out in public, to wear face masks, practice improved hygiene and to avoid the consumption of meat, eggs and milk. 
The Pakistan Embassy also urged Pakistani students to remain vigilant while adopting good preventive measures in its latest advisory issued on Sunday.
“Pakistani community members and students in Wuhan are advised to cooperate with Chinese health authorities for curbing the spread of virus; understand the prevention and control measures taken and comply with official instructions,” the Pakistani mission in Beijing said.
The embassy also asked all Pakistanis to register with the mission to get timely updates and so they could be easily facilitated in case of an emergency evacuation.
But families back home in Pakistan have expressed grave concern for the well-being of their loved ones in China.
“We are worried about the health of our daughter who is studying at Xiamen University since 2018,” Rawalpindi-based Zahoor Ahmad, father of Maham Zahoor who is pursuing her Master’s degree in international relations, told Arab News on Saturday. “I talked to her this morning and advised her to remain indoors and avoid unnecessary movement, especially to markets and other public places.”
The coronavirus, which emerged in December, has now spread to other countries, but the majority of the 2,000 cases and all 56 deaths, have been reported in China.
Earlier this week, Chinese authorities shut down transportation from Wuhan, the capital of central China’s Hubei province, hoping to contain the spread of virus, and have since expanded the lockdown to other cities, covering a total population of about 35 million people.
The World Health Organization described the outbreak as an emergency for China, though it stopped short of declaring it a public health emergency of international concern just yet.
“We are facing problems as we have been asked to remain in our hostels. We are facing an acute shortage of food as shops and restaurants are closed due to the blockade of the city,” Muhammad Atiq, a PhD student of Public Administration at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, told Arab News by telephone from China.
Atiq added that his family in Pakistan were getting increasingly worried.
“The university promised to provide us with special masks, but we haven’t received them yet as air traffic, railways and even taxi services are closed in the city. We could not even offer Friday prayers since all sorts of gatherings have been banned in the city,” he said.
Mumtaz Begum, a school principal from southern Punjab whose daughter is a student at Peking University in Beijing, expressed serious concerns for the health of her daughter while speaking to Arab News.
“I want her to come back to Pakistan, but she has her exams in a couple of months. I have asked her to remain inside her apartment, wear a mask and avoid going to public places. We all are praying for her health as the virus is spreading to the whole of China,” she said.
On Saturday, at least two people suspected of contracting coronavirus were admitted to Nishtar hospital in Multan, southern Punjab. The government has so far denied reports of any confirmed case of the disease in Pakistan.


Daily wagers say government’s virus relief package won’t cover minimum needs

Updated 30 March 2020

Daily wagers say government’s virus relief package won’t cover minimum needs

  • Assistance to reach 3 million workers — less than a half of the affected, according workers’ association
  • The support package is part of the government’s Rs1.2 trillion scheme to minimize the impacts of the pandemic

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government on Monday approved Rs17,500 ($106) monthly cash assistance for around 3 million daily wage workers who lost their jobs amid cutbacks and shutdowns over the coronavirus crisis. The amount may be insufficient for them to survive.

“Something is better than nothing in this critical time, but this amount (17,500 rupees) isn’t enough even for a small family of five members to get by, ” Zahoor Awan, secretary general of the Pakistan Workers’ Federation (PWF), told Arab News.

“A small family needs at least 50,000 rupees per month to fulfill all its expenses including house rent, food and utilities,” he said.

The Rs200 billion financial support package is part of the government’s Rs1.2 trillion fiscal stimulus scheme to minimize the adverse impacts of the disease outbreak on the country’s fragile economy.

“It was estimated that around 3 million workers will fall in this category and they will have to be paid a minimum wage of Rs17,500 ($106) per month,” the government’s Economic Coordination Committee said in a statement on Monday.
The government will disburse the money to workers through provincial labor departments.

“This is a substantial and major commitment from the government at this difficult time,” Khurram Husain, business analyst and editor at Dawn daily, told Arab News, adding that the labor departments will have to generate “authentic data” on the workers for the funds to be fairly distributed.

However, the very data on which ECC based its relief may be unreflective of the reality. 

While the ECC estimates that 3 million daily wage workers have been affected by the shutdown of commercial activity across the country, according to PWF’s Awan the number is at least 7 million.

He said the government’s package covers only the formal industrial sector. “What about those thousands working in small hotels, shops, self-employed, and others who aren’t registered with labor departments?” he said, adding that it is necessary for the government to broaden its definition of daily wage earners.

Ghulam Mustafa, a daily wager at a textile mill in Chakwal, said that prior to the business shutdown his monthly income was Rs26,000.

“It’s impossible to meet all the expenses with Rs17,500,” he told Arab News. “The government should waive off our utility bills along with this allowance.”