KARACHI: The Chinese consul general in Karachi on Thursday said that Pakistan had taken “a very difficult but good decision” by not bringing back its nationals residing in China after the coronavirus outbreak.
“To evacuate or keep them there is a very difficult decision, and your government has made a tough choice by not bringing them back,” China’s top diplomat in Karachi, Li Bijian, said while addressing ‘Meet the Press’ program organized by the Karachi Press Club.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday spoke to President Xi Jinping about the spread of coronavirus on the telephone.
The conversation between the two leaders took place a day after parents of Pakistani students in China gave a three-day deadline to the government to evacuate their children from the coronavirus-hit country.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza had announced the government’s decision not to evacuate Pakistani citizens stranded in China in accordance with the recommendations of the World Health Organization on January 30.
“The students are availing better facilities in China,” said the Chinese diplomat. “Our government is providing them everything they need to protect them from the virus. They are also getting the best assistance free of cost, including halal food. We are treating them like our own children.”
Bijian informed that more than 50,000 Pakistani workers and students were living in China and their repatriation could trigger another outbreak.
“The movement of people is highly restricted in China and, if you bring them back, there would be a risk of spread of the virus. The return of 50,000 people would also put a huge health pressure on your government and may cause an outbreak in this country,” he warned.
The Chinese consul general said that 6,000 foreign students, including 500 Pakistanis, were still living in Wuhan.
“Four students contracted the virus but they were released from the hospital about a week ago. Parents of Pakistani students worry about their safety which is understandable, but we can assure them that their children are in safe hands,” he added.
The death toll from coronavirus surpassed 2,000 this week. According to reports, more than 75,000 people have been infected by the virus, with over 1,000 cases outside mainland China.
“Ever since the outbreak of the virus, the Chinese government and people have joined hands to fight the outbreak. The government has been very open, transparent and responsible while dealing with the problem,” the Chinese diplomat said.
Bijian was confident that his government would completely overcome the spread of the virus by the end of March 2020 as measures taken by the government were showing good results.