ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza has announced no Pakistani will be allowed to travel back to the country from China till they complete a 14-day observation period.
The SAPM, while addressing a press conference in Islamabad on Saturday, said that the agreement in this regard had been finalised in a meeting held with the Chinese envoy in Pakistan.
However, the official informed reporters that further details of the agreement are still being worked out.
Mirza shared that the policy is being implemented after China declared that no Chinese citizen will be allowed to travel abroad till the completion of the 14-day observation period.
“Those declared free of the virus after the period will be issued with a certificate that assures the airport officials that they are free from the disease,” Mirza said.
“Through this one measure we have ensured Pakistan remains free from the disease. Because our case definition says that travelling and staying in China is an important factor [behind the spread of the disease],” said the SAPM.
Dr Mirza stated that If Pakistan was able to control the disease in Pakistanis present in China, then it has secured the country from the disease, according to the information that doctors have at this point.
Virus detection kits to arrive today
Dr Mirza also shared with the reporters that the country will soon receive the health kits which would allow the country to detect the virus. “From tomorrow or today we will start carrying out tests to determine the coronavirus,” said Dr Mirza.
Awareness campaign on the cards
Dr Mirza also shared that from today onwards the government will launch an awareness campaign on electronic media regarding the disease. He shared that the campaign will explain the origins of the disease and also advise the people on the precautionary measures to be taken by people regarding the disease.
“Chairman Pemra has reached out to all the TV channels. Through public service messaging, we will brief the public,” said Dr Mirza. He said the government was hoping that through the campaign the people will get to know the basics of the virus.
Dr Mirza also reiterated once again that Pakistan was yet to detect the first case of the virus in the country. While giving the update on the four Pakistani students diagnosed with the disease, Dr Mirza said that the students were being kept under observation.
He added that the early detection of the disease also helped the students. SAPM had announced on Wednesday that four Pakistani students in China were tested positive for the coronavirus.
The SAPM, however, refused to share the names of the affected students with the media. “The government will take good care of the students who have contracted the virus,” he said at the presser.
Dr Mirza defends decision not to evacuate Pakistanis, says plan ready
During the press conference, the special assistant also defended the government’s decision on not to evacuate Pakistani citizens from the disease hit country.
The rebuttal comes as United States and a few other countries have evacuated its citizens from China and also imposed a travel ban on the country.
“Till now, seven or eight countries have carried out evictions or requested china for evacuation,” said the SAPM. He added that China does not agree with the evacuations.
“We should not forget in Wuhan people from 120 countries are living in the city and 120 countries support that China is correctly handling the measures,” said Dr Mirza.
The highest health official of the country also shared that the World Health Organisation also believes that China’s efforts are adequate. “China is doing good public health and is trying to assure people that their own people and other people can be protected saved from this disease,” said the SAPM.
Dr Mirza reiterated that Pakistan stands by China in its handling of the crises. “We are the most worried about our own kids. But we have to take the right measures for us and not follow other countries,” Dr Mirza told reporters.
The special assistant said that Pakistan has to take measures without compromising the safety and wellbeing of its people living in China. He also shared that PM Imran was the “most worried” person regarding the disease and was receiving “minute by minute” updates from the government officials.
Dr Mirza, also revealed, that the health ministry in coordination with other ministries has finalised a plan on how to deal with passengers that will return to the country from China in the future.
“Thirty to forty people have planned this. If we implement this plan successfully then we will protect Pakistani people from this disease,” assured Dr Mirza.
Death toll soars
China faced deepening isolation on Saturday over the recent break of the coronavirus epidemic as the death toll soared to 259, with the United States and Australia leading a growing list of nations to impose extraordinary Chinese travel bans.
Beijing, which insists it can contain the virus, began to show impatience over the growing ostracism, with the foreign ministry calling Washington’s earlier advice against travel to China “unkind”.
“Certainly it is not a gesture of goodwill,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.
The US emergency declaration also requires Americans returning from the ground zero Chinese province of Hubei to be placed in mandatory 14-day quarantine, and health screening for US citizens coming from other parts of China.
With public anger mounting in China, Wuhan’s top official admitted late Friday that authorities there had acted too slowly.
“If strict control measures had been taken earlier the result would have been better than now,” Ma Guoqiang, the Communist Party chief for Wuhan, told state media.
Ma said he was “in a state of guilt, remorse and self-reproach”.