Stranded Pakistanis in Wuhan, China

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Saturday reiterated that its citizens in China will not be repatriated in order to keep the country safe from Coronavirus. More than 500 Pakistani students are currently studying in various universities of the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.

Dr Zafar Mirza, special assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan, said at a press conference here that the government will stay firm on its earlier decision. He said Pakistanis stranded in China will not be allowed to return home until they are quarantined for 14 days and found to be free from the virus.

The total number of Pakistani nationals in China is between 28,000 and 30,000. Families of most of them have been demanding that the government bring back their loved ones to the country.

The opposition has criticised the government over the decision not to allow its nationals to travel back to the country from China. They suggested that Pakistanis, mostly students, should be brought back home.

“The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the situation an emergency of international concern. Being a responsible nation, Pakistan wants to take steps that ensure the safety of maximum people,” Dr Mirza said.

“We believe that, right now, it is in the interest of our loved ones in China to stay there. It is in the larger interest of the region, world and the country that we don’t evacuate them now,” he said.

“If we act irresponsibly and start evacuating people from there, this epidemic will spread all over,” Dr Mirza added.