Coronavirus Outbreak: Pakistani students stranded in Wuhan appeal for help

Pakistani students stuck in Hubei province took to social media to appeal to the Government of Pakistan to send help for them, they even started trending #EvacuatePakistaniStudents to amplify their voice.

On Twitter, Umar Bhutto, who hails from Karachi, shared the plight of his brother and friends:

In the video, Bhutto explains that when the stranded students contacted the Pakistani embassy in Beijing, officials advised them to go to higher authorities. They, therefore, made the video to appeal to the Pakistani government for help and to inform the public of their situation.

However, the Foreign Office of Pakistan tweeted: ” Regular contact and updates being sought from Chinese authorities. Our Embassy reaching out extensively to all our students and nationals. Chinese universities have ensured free meals to all students and regular monitoring of students’ health.”

To some, however, that is not enough. Hajrat Ali, a Pakistani student living in Wuhan, shared a video proving that India is in the process of evacuating its own students from China:

In the clip, he shared his frustration that Pakistan’s government is failing to assist its stranded students, while other neighbouring countries like Bangladesh and India have started evacuating their nationals from Hubei province.

The chances of Pakistan following their lead seem slim. On January 31, Senator Seemi Ezdi of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party admitted that while the government’s decision not to evacuate the students “is apparently looking harsh […] the students will likely receive better treatment in China”. He fears that Pakistan is not sufficiently equipped to provide the level of medical care that coronavirus patients would need.

Backing up this position is Dr. Zafar Mirza, special assistant to the prime minister on national health services, who said, “We believe it is in the interest of our loved ones in China to stay there. It’s in the larger interest of the region, the world, and the country that we don’t evacuate them now.”

Meanwhile, the first consignment of coronavirus detection kits, which were donated by Japan, has reached Pakistan’s National Institute of Health (NIH) in Islamabad. The shipment has allowed health sector employees to analyse at least 1,000 suspected samples for the novel coronavirus.

Earlier on January 28, when a Pakistani student travelled from Wuhan to Karachi, he was straight admitted to the isolation ward of a private hospital for observation. The student, identified as Arsalan, will be kept under observation for 14 days.

As many as 150 Pakistanis have been stranded for days at the Urumqi airport in the northwestern province of Xinjiang. Tariq Rauf, who is in China studying for his PhD, mentioned in a video that the Pakistani community is stuck in Ürümqi because onward flights to Pakistan have been cancelled.

Like many other countries, Pakistan has cancelled all flights to and from China until February 2, 2020, when, it is expected, authorities will reassess the situation and decide how best to move forward.

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