Coronavirus

 
January 28, 2020

Infections by coronavirus are on the rise and have already targeted thousands of people in China. The number of deaths has also reached over 80 and another 500 or so victims of this virus are...

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Infections by coronavirus are on the rise and have already targeted thousands of people in China. The number of deaths has also reached over 80 and another 500 or so victims of this virus are reported to be in a critical condition. The city of Wuhan is presenting the look of a besieged city. Over 3000 people have been confirmed infected, and suspected cases are nearing a 6000 mark. In Shanghai and some other cities the government has stopped businesses from returning to work until February 10. The World Health Organisation has also come into action and its director-general is already in China to discuss the outbreak and chart out a plan of action to contain the virus before it gets out of hand. Other countries such as France, Japan, South Korea, and the US have also started preparations to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan.

Under these circumstances, the government in Pakistan should not take it lightly. According to reports, there are over 28, 000 Pakistani students all over China, and another 2,000 or so traders living in or travelling through the country. The number of Pakistani students only in the city of Wuhan, the centre of the outbreak, is estimated to be 500. With that many Pakistanis in China, authorities in both China and Pakistan should immediately spring into action and mobilize all resources at once to first evacuate all Pakistanis from Wuhan and then be ready to do the same from other cities of China if the virus spreads. There are reports that it has already travelled to not only other cities of China but also to other countries. The virus is deadly and can cause death even after the treatment has started. This calls for an immediate action plan from both the ministries of foreign affairs and health.

The argument that many Pakistanis living in China have not registered themselves is not convincing and should not be used as an excuse. Many expat Pakistanis don’t get registered because ideally the registration should be complete online, but in Pakistan’s case the process is cumbersome and most officials in Pakistani embassies abroad are not helpful in the registration process. This results in a reluctance of Pakistani nationals to visit their embassies unless it is absolutely necessary. Now, the government of Pakistan should facilitate evacuation of Pakistanis irrespective of their registration status with the embassy. Secondly, the health ministry should develop a comprehensive plan to counter an outbreak in the country. We can’t afford an out-of-control epidemic in the country.



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