Pakistani officials meet students in virus-hit Wuhan

A two-member special task force from Pakistan Embassy Beijing visited the virus-hit Chinese city of Wuhan to meet Pakistani students. (Photo Courtesy: Pakistan Foreign Office)
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Updated 15 March 2020

Pakistani officials meet students in virus-hit Wuhan

  • A two-member task force is permanently deployed in Wuhan to coordinate with Chinese authorities, foreign office says
  • Pakistan decided not to evacuate its nationals from Wuhan after the epidemic began

ISLAMABAD: A two-member special task force from Pakistan Embassy Beijing visited the virus-hit Chinese city of Wuhan to meet Pakistani students in different universities and get first-hand information regarding their well-being and safety, the foreign office said on Tuesday. 

“The task force is permanently deployed in Wuhan and coordinating with Chinese authorities,” the foreign office statement read. “The task force would return to their homes in Beijing once the lockdown in Wuhan is lifted in its entirety and the on-ground situation is completely stabilized.”

Pakistan decided not to evacuate its students and other nationals from Wuhan after the epidemic began, making the concerned parents of locked-down students in China criticize the government and demand their children’s immediate return.

The matter was also discussed in the local media and national parliament, putting the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf administration under pressure.

According to the foreign office, the two-member task force met the administrative staff in different universities to get first-hand information on the well-being and needs of the students. They also reported that all the students in the universities they visited today were safe, healthy and well looked after.

“All those in need of any medical attention are provided immediate and best available medical care,” the statement said. “Similarly, there is a provision of psychological counseling to those facing stress and depression.”

“Three Pakistani students at Guangzhou city and one in Wuhan who were infected by the coronavirus have fully recovered and discharged from the hospitals,” the foreign office press release added.

Pakistan’s diplomatic mission in China constituted an 11-member group to monitor the contagion and respond to the queries and requests of students. Among other things, it also organized a video conference of Pakistani nationals in Wuhan with relevant cabinet members in Islamabad.

“The situation in Wuhan and Hubei Province is showing increased signs of improvement,” the foreign office statement continued. “The number of daily reported infected cases is gradually decreasing, the markets and shopping places are being opened and courier services have been resumed.”


Beat stress with self-discipline, meditation during lockdown — Experts

Updated 04 April 2020

Beat stress with self-discipline, meditation during lockdown — Experts

  • Self-isolation and social distancing may lead to tremendous mental pressure among many
  • Experts say building physical and mental immunity can relieve anxiety and stress

RAWALPINDI: While experts warn that self-isolation and social distancing during long virus lockdowns could trigger symptoms of anxiety and depression among people, they list a number of practices to beat stress out of life. 
Building “mental immunity,” at a time when physical immunity has taken center stage is critical to one’s well-being, said Islamabad-based psychotherapist, Nida Maqbool.
“What most people do not realize is that our mental immunity and physical immunity are interlinked,” Maqbool told Arab News over the phone. “If we are not mentally fit, we also feel physical repercussions.”
Another Islamabad-based counselor, Farah Rehman, who operates out of Therapy Works in the nation’s capital said, “Building physical and mental immunity can give quite a relief to anxiety whether it’s working on your fitness or writing down what you are grateful for. Another great tool is meditation.”
A few weeks ago, Pakistanis began following the World Health Organization’s guidelines of social distancing and self-isolation in order to help combat the spread of coronavirus, a hard adjustment to normal practice.
Provinces in Pakistan announced lockdowns, shops other than pharmacies and grocery stores were shuttered and, while all of this was done to keep Pakistanis safe, the situation triggered anxiety, stress and depression among many in the absence of usual social interactions.
“Humans are not meant to be completely isolated,” Omar Bazza, a clinical therapist practicing in Toronto, told Arab News over the phone. “Distancing and social isolation can indeed trigger a lot of anxiety and depression symptoms.”
In addition to forgoing social interactions, even those as simple as bumping into friends somewhere, there is the added stress of lost jobs, bills piling up, uncertainty of the future and the desire to keep the family safe.
“These concerns can easily trigger or even create anxiety. We are starting to see depression and anxiety in people who previously never experienced issues with their mental health,” said Bazza to Arab News.
“I have seen some of my depression make a comeback,” said Roshaan Amber, an Islamabad-based telecom worker, about being stuck at home. “Previously, I went for therapy to deal with anxiety and my depression was under control. But being at home all the time has once again stimulated it.”
Anousheh Azra works with the banking sector, one of the few areas of economy that have been deemed essential and therefore keeping people like her out of home. Yet, she is required to practice social distancing which, she believes, is making her life immensely difficult.
“I feel constantly exhausted, no matter how well rested I am,” she told Arab News. “I feel anxious.”
Maqbool suggests that “We all need to realize that we are going through trauma at a global level.” “We need to give ourselves the space to feel this.”
She recommends setting strict boundaries to exercise self-discipline like the one she has for herself where only a small portion of the day is dedicated to reading the news and where friends and family have been told that if they want to have a chat they need to discuss something other than the coronavirus. “If I am not in a good mental space myself, I cannot help my clients who are looking to me as a source of peace and safety.”
Maqbool has joined many people across the globe by using the Internet and digital platforms to reach her clients. She brings 80 percent of her clients to work with her online and sees 20 percent of them in person at her home, though “we keep a distance of five feet and meet in my lawn.”
Rehman said that “helping the underprivileged while staying within one’s capacity” can also tend to ease anxiety and depression. Another healthy indulgence is helping family members or friends passing through a tough time in isolation by “staying in touch virtually whether it’s a phone call or video chat and of course through social media,” said added.
Online resources for stress inoculation are available as well, though one should be cautioned to make sure the source of the website is legitimate and attached to medical or mental health professionals.