While Pakistani students stranded in the novel coronavirus-struck Wuhan city are anxiously waiting for the government to announce an evacuation plan for them, the Prime Minister’s Special Adviser on Health Dr Zafar Mirza has reassured their families that none of the 500 students is affected by the disease, officially known as “2019-nCoV”, and that the Pakistan embassy in China is actively in contact with them.
“I want to reassure the families of our 500 Pakistani students in Wuhan city. Having spoken with our ambassador in China, I can confirm that students are well and there has been no case of novel coronavirus among them. Our embassy is actively in touch with them,” Mirza communicated via a tweet.
In another tweet that followed, he said: “(Pakistani) Students in China have been informed about protective measures; they should follow the instructions and be patient.
“Those still not registered with the Pakistan embassy in Beijing should get themselves registered online at pakjb.org.
“Be assured that we are closely monitoring the situation.”
Responding to the tweets, a Pakistani student residing in Wuhan, Tauhid Shah, pointed out that citizens of US, France and Russia are returning to their respective countries, and that the government of Pakistan should take similar measures for Pakistani students as well.
Mudassar Rauf, another Pakistani citizen in China, has questioned why Pakistanis cannot leave the country when American citizens are being allowed to do so.
“Please discuss the evacuation plan for Pakistan citizens,” he said in a comment on Mirza’s tweet.
Mirza responded by saying that he has discussed the matter with Pakistan’s ambassador to China, and that the Chinese authorities are currently not allowing anyone to leave Wuhan.
Meanwhile, in a statement, the prime minister’s adviser repeated that there is no confirmed case of 2019-nCoV in Pakistan so far and that reports about cases in Multan are totally inaccurate.
“The Chinese national admitted in Nishtar Hospital, Multan, is improving. He had no signs of severe acute respiratory infection and is being managed in line with standard protocols as a suspect,” he tweeted.
As per standard guidelines, any traveler from China having flu-like symptoms has to be isolated and monitored.
The facility to confirm 2019-nCoV through a laboratory test is only available in a few countries of the world.
However, the National Institute of Health in Islamabad is fully equipped to isolate coronaviruses closely related to the 2019-nCoV, and thus the virus can be confirmed by excluding other types of coronaviruses.
“We are in touch with Chinese authorities, and kits to test for 2019-nCoV will be received in a few days. It may take 3-4 days for us to procure primers for the novel coronavirus,” Mirza stated.
The statement also informs that Thermo Scanners and Thermo Guns have been provided to dedicated health staff at airports in Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad for screening of passengers arriving from China.
“Any person who has travelled to or from China within the last 14 days and has developed suggestive symptoms, including unexplained fever, cough or breathing difficulty, should seek medical attention.
“This includes people living with the person who has travelled,” it adds.
Since Friday, China has closed its outbound direct flights to Pakistan.
According to the current schedule, South China Airline flights will resume from January 29 and China Airlines flights will resume from February 3.
Considering that there will be heavy influx of travellers from China after February 8, when the celebrations of Chinese New Year conclude, all relevant authorities have been asked to carry out robust surveillance for screening at the points of entry at Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi airports, alongside seaports and land crossings; to raise public awareness; and to ensure hospital preparedness for management of potential cases,” the statement adds.
Mirza has given the assurance that the Emergency Operation Cell in the Federal health ministry is monitoring the situation round the clock.
“Instructions have been given to all major hospitals to make arrangements to receive possible cases and provide necessary care. We have established contact with all provincial chief ministers, provincial health departments and relevant ministries and authorities, for seamless co-ordination.
“We are meeting every 48 hours to review the situation and take necessary measures for optimal preparedness and mitigation in the event of a suspected case.
“A helpline will be functional from Wednesday for information on the disease and response to queries,” Mirza said in the statement.
The outbreak has, to date, caused at least 2,000 cases and at least 82 deaths in China.
Other countries including Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, United States, France, and Australia have also reported a few confirmed cases with travel history to China.
There is no vaccination or specific antiviral treatment for this respiratory illness.
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