So far, the coronavirus has remained outside the borders of Pakistan, but at least four Pakistani students who attend university in China have been confirmed to have the virus. The four students who contracted the illness are among the more than 500 Pakistani students who are studying in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the center of the outbreak.
Pakistani students infected
News outlets in Pakistan report that Dr. Zafar Mirza, Special Assistant for Health to Prime Minister Imran Khan, informed him of the development on Wednesday. Mirza also addressed a press conference that was called in Pakistan on Wednesday, and he told reporters that about 500 Pakistani students are based in Wuhan.
One other issue reported by the students has been food shortages, and Pakistani officials said they have flagged this concern with Chinese authorities. Pakistani students reported the food shortages in a video posted on social media, saying that more than 2,000 Pakistani students at 12 universities in Wuhan were dealing with food shortages.
The government has assured complete support to the families of the ill students. Mirza also said the government would take care of all Pakistanis who are currently in China during the coronavirus outbreak. He said all four of the sick Pakistani students in China are “doing well” and getting the “best care possible.” The students’ families have been “notified and reassured.”
He also thanked Chinese officials and the Pakistani embassy in China for the rapid response to the matter.
Mirza also said that so far there isn’t a single confirmed case of the coronavirus inside Pakistan. The only Pakistanis known to be infected with the virus are the students studying in Wuhan, China. He added that they were monitoring four individuals they thought might have coronavirus. Samples have been collected from them, and their conditions were improving. Based on the evidence they have seen, officials are confident that the four individuals did not bring the coronavirus into Pakistan. Some news reports have put the number of suspected cases of the coronavirus in Pakistan at five, however.
On Tuesday, officials discussed what would be done if the coronavirus ever does make it to Pakistan. Prime Minister Imran Khan sent a letter to ministries that would be affected in such a situation to ask them to develop a strategy to manage the threat from the coronavirus in Pakistan. The letter also called for a high-level committee meeting of officials from the affected ministries.
The World Health Organization plans to hold another emergency meeting on Thursday to decide whether the coronavirus outbreak now should be classified as an international public health emergency. News reports indicate that the number of people in mainland China who are infected with the virus has surpassed the number of those who came down with SARS during the epidemic in 2002 and 2003.
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Beijing schools have shut down indefinitely, and foreigners are being evacuated from Wuhan. Many countries are no longer flying to China. American Airlines suspended a number of flights to China scheduled for February and March.
So far, more than 6,000 people worldwide have been confirmed to have the virus, and it has killed more than 130 people.