More than 2,000 Pakistani students in Wuhan seek help for repatriation

BEIJING:  More than 2,000 Pakistani students, who are studying at the Engineering and Science University of Wuhan and belong to Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), have sought help from the Chinese and Pakistani government officials for their evacuation from Wuhan after the outbreak of deadly contagious coronavirus.

In a video message, a group of students stated that due to the deadly virus outbreak, Wuhan, the city of 11 million people and the epicentre of the virus outbreak in central China, is already in virtual lockdown and travel restrictions, and has been cut off from other provinces of China, and they have been facing severe shortage of food.

Speaking to a private television channel, Hafsa Tayyab, one of the trapped students, acknowledged officials of Pakistan’s diplomatic mission in China have been cooperating with them, but they have not been given any deadline for their evacuation from China’s high-risk areas.

She said no Pakistani student has been infected with the deadly disease until now. Severe limits on movement are in place in several other Chinese cities as well.

The death toll from a coronavirus outbreak in China rose to 81 on Monday, as the government extended the Lunar New Year holiday and more big businesses shut down or told staff to work from home in an effort to curb the spread.

China’s finance ministry and National Health Commission have extended 60.33 billion yuan (6.65 billion pounds) to help contain a spreading virus, according to a statement on the ministry’s website.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited the central city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, as the government sought to signal it was responding seriously.

Asian shares tumbled, with Japan’s Nikkei average sliding 2.0%, its biggest one-day fall in five months, as investors grew increasingly anxious. Demand spiked for safe-haven assets such as the Japanese yen and Treasury notes.

The total number of confirmed cases in China rose about 30% to 2,744, with about half in Hubei province, the capital of which is Wuhan. But some experts suspect the number of infected people is much higher.

As worry grew around the world, Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, which has had eight confirmed cases, banned entry to people who had visited Hubei in the past 14 days. The ban did not cover Hong Kong residents.

The nearby gambling hub of Macau, which has had at least one case of the flu-like virus, imposed a similar ban on those arriving from Hubei, unless they can prove they are virus-free.

The city of Haikou on Hainan island in southern China said tourists from Hubei would be quarantined for 14 days. “Hubei people are getting discriminated against,” a Wuhan resident complained on the Weibo social media platform.

The number of deaths from the virus in Hubei climbed to 76 from 56, health officials said, with five deaths elsewhere in China.

While a small number of cases linked to people who traveled from Wuhan have been confirmed in more than 10 countries, including Thailand, France, Japan and the United States, no deaths have been reported elsewhere.

Li is the most senior leader to visit Wuhan since the outbreak began. Clad in a blue protective suit and mask, he inspected efforts to contain the epidemic and spoke to patients and medical staff, the government said.

Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, is in virtual lockdown and severe limits on movement are in place in several other Chinese cities. Much of Hubei province, home to nearly 60 million people, is under some kind of travel restriction.

The government is extending the week-long Lunar New Year holiday by three days to Feb. 2, in a bid to slow the spread of the virus. The Lunar New Year is usually a time for travel by millions, but many have had to cancel plans. = DNA

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