Pakistani students in Wuhan safe but not allowed to travel — foreign office

A medical staff member sprays disinfectant on a colleague as they prepare to transfer patients infected by the COVID-19 coronavirus from Wuhan No.5 Hospital to Leishenshan Hospital in Wuhan on March 3, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 15 March 2020

Pakistani students in Wuhan safe but not allowed to travel — foreign office

  • About 1,100 Pakistani students have been stranded in Hubei province
  • Government decided not to evacuate its nationals after the epidemic began

ISLAMABAD: No Pakistani student has yet returned from Wuhan, the coronavirus outbreak’s epicenter in Hubei province, despite earlier reports of Chinese authorities relaxing their quarantine measures, Foreign Office spokeswoman Aisha Farooqui told Arab News on Thursday.
“The local authorities in Wuhan have issued a notification of relaxation in quarantine in Wuhan last week, which was taken back immediately, before implementation,” Farooqui said.
“All Pakistani students are safe, including the four discharged from hospital after recovering from infection,” she said, adding that the Pakistani Embassy in Beijing is in touch with Chinese authorities.
The Wuhan administration on Feb. 24 announced that those stranded in the city were allowed to leave, unless they had been under observation or quarantined. The notification raised hopes among the families of 1,100 Pakistani students, who have been stuck in Hubei since the lockdown was enforced on Jan. 23.
However, the announcement was retracted three hours later, when Wuhan mayor Zhou Xianwang said it was issued without authorization.
Meanwhile, two officials from the Pakistani Embassy who went to Wuhan in mid-February to meet the students and get first-hand information regarding their wellbeing remain in the city, according to Farooqui.
“The Chinese authorities allowed our embassy officials to enter Wuhan on condition that they would be able to leave only after the quarantine has been lifted. They are still there and looking after the Pakistani community,” she said.
The spokeswoman added that the government has transferred ¥3,500 ($504) to each of the students.
“There are many students who went to Hubei province for just a few days to collect their certificates and degrees. But they were stranded due to the quarantine. The government of Pakistan has provided ¥3,500 to each student who was registered with the Pakistani mission in Beijing,” Farooqui said, expressing hope that the quarantine will be lifted this month.
The students, however, say that they do not want money but evacuation.
“All of us received ¥3,500 in our accounts from the Pakistani government, but we haven’t asked for money. They should evacuate us as many countries have evacuated their students from Wuhan. We are sitting in the epicenter of the coronavirus and are worried about out safety,” Sadia Bajwa, a Pakistani student from Bahawalpur who is doing her doctoral studies at Huazhong Agricultural University, told Arab News over the phone on Thursday.
Pakistan decided not to evacuate its nationals from Wuhan after the epidemic began.
Impassioned video appeals from the stranded students have flooded Pakistani social media, but the government has refused to fly them back in a bid to avoid the spread of virus.


On this Eid Al-Adha, no Qurbani without face mask

Updated 11 July 2020

On this Eid Al-Adha, no Qurbani without face mask

  • Cattle markets will be set up away from cities and buyers will have to wear face masks and gloves
  • The National Command and Operation Center also wants compulsory testing for animal handlers

ISLAMABAD: The National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) prepared guidelines regarding the sale of sacrificial animals on Eid Al-Adha after consulting different stakeholders, senior government functionaries informed Arab News on Saturday, adding that the instructions were specifically designed to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus and would be implemented with the help of district administrations.

The NCOC on Friday suggested setting up cattle markets about two to four kilometers outside of cities. It also insisted on compulsory testing of animal handlers and banned potential buyers from entering these marketplaces without face masks.

The NCOC, the top government institution responsible for preparing a coherent national strategy to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, also limited the timings of cattle markets, saying they would only be allowed to operate during the day. It also called for social distancing and said that thermal scanners must be installed at all entry points of animal markets.

“Keeping in mind our experience of Eid al-Fitr, we will have to be quite vigilant this time,” said Dr. Muhammad Zaeem Zia, Islamabad’s district health officer who regularly attends NCOC meetings. “It is not enough to issue precautionary measures since such guidelines also need to be properly implemented.”

“The health ministry and local administrations are working very closely to prevent the spread of the virus during the sale and purchase of animals,” he continued. “The guidelines issued by the health ministry and NCOC are for the whole country and all provinces must abide by them.”

Deputy Commissioner Islamabad Muhammad Hamza Shafqaat said his administration had also provided its input to the NCOC during the preparation of these guidelines.

“We gave our recommendations to the NCOC and suggested ways to implement the guidelines. We also constituted a joint team of the Capital Development Authority, Municipal Corporation, Islamabad administration and police,” he told Arab News, adding that elderly people and children would not be allowed to enter animal markets.

“The administration will ensure implementation of physical distancing, wearing of masks and gloves, frequent disinfection of places and other precautionary measures,” Shafqaat continued.

President of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Society of Pakistan Dr. Bushra Jameel told Arab News that it was essential to restrict unnecessary movement of animals and people under the circumstances to curb the spread of the infectious respiratory disease.

“It is a good step to move these animal markets outside of cities,” she said, “but the government should provide necessary facilities to people who want to buy these animals. It is also essential to ensure social distancing and implement other precautionary measures. Otherwise, the country may experience yet another surge of infections.”

“I have been buying animals ahead of Eid Al-Adha for the last ten years. However, it seems that it will be a tough and expensive experience this time since we will have to go quite far away to make our purchase,” said Usman Zahoor, a resident of Rawalpindi. “I wonder if setting up these markets so far away from cities will prevent the virus from entering them.”

“It would have been much better if the government had decided to use empty spaces within cities – such as parks etc – to set up animal markets,” he continued. “It would have made life much easier for customers as well.”