Pakistan stops China flight operations amid coronavirus emergency


Pakistan stops China flight operations amid coronavirus emergency
Pakistan on Friday halted flights to and from China with immediate effect, a civil aviation official told a foreign news agency, as the virus death toll reached 213 and the World Health Organization (WHO) called it a global health emergency.

“We are suspending flights to China until Feb 2,” additional secretary of aviation Abdul Sattar Khokhar told Reuters by phone, adding the situation would be reviewed after that date.

He declined to comment on the reason for the closure.

Some airlines including British Airways, have already suspended flights to China due to warnings of the coronavirus outbreak.

The suspension of flight operations will add to the worries of Pakistani nationals in China as they were pleading the government for their immediate evacuation.

While all the major countries are bringing their citizens from Wuhan, the epicenter of deadly virus outbreak, Pakistan on Thursday announced that “it was not advisable” to evacuate Pakistanis from China.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health, Dr Zafar Mirza said, “we don’t want to take any emotional decision which will cause this virus to spread further,” he said.

“It is also our responsibility to ensure that our citizens in Wuhan are being properly taken care of and see to it whether they are being provided food or items of daily use or not,” he added.

‘Do not travel to China’

The United States on Friday told its citizens to avoid China after the World Health Organization declared a global coronavirus emergency.

The State Department raised it warning alert to the highest level, telling Americans “do not travel” to China and urged those already there to leave.

Hours earlier, the WHO, which was criticised for initially downplaying the virus threat, changed tack after crisis talks in Geneva.

“Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as the emergency was declared.

“We must all act together now to limit further spread… We can only stop it together.”

Growing panic

China said Friday it planned to send charter planes to bring back Hubei residents who are now abroad, citing the “practical difficulties” that they have encountered overseas. Those from Wuhan will be returned to their quarantined city, the foreign ministry said.

China has taken extreme steps to stop the spread of the virus, including effectively quarantining more than 50 million people in Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province.

But the number of new deaths and cases continues to swell.

The death toll was hiked on Friday to 213 after 43 new deaths, all but one in Hubei. Most deaths have been elderly people.