China backs Pakistan decision not to evacuate students from coronavirus lockdown

FILE PHOTO: People and family members hold signs and banner demanding evacuation of Pakistani students from Wuhan city in China, who couldn’t go back after the coronavirus outbreak, during a protest outside Chinese Consulate in Lahore, Pakistan February 13, 2020. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza

KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) – A Chinese diplomat on Thursday backed Pakistan’s decision not to evacuate Pakistani students from the province at the centre of China’s coronavirus outbreak, a day after parents confronted government ministers demanding their children be brought home.

Pakistan has ruled out bringing back more than 1,000 students in Hubei province and its capital Wuhan, where three-quarters of the more than 2,000 deaths from the outbreak of the flu-like virus have been recorded.

“If such large number of students come back, this will cost huge health operations for the Pakistani government. If the isolation facilities are not ready, this can cause another outbreak of this virus in Pakistan,” Li Bijian, Consul General of China in Karachi, told reporters.

“So that’s why I say this decision of not evacuating the students from the epicentre is difficult but a very good decision.”

On Wednesday, angry parents confronted government ministers at a meeting, demanding their children be evacuated.

Li said China had better facilities for the students and the government was providing masks and suits to protect them.

“We treat them as our own children,” Li said.

Pakistan and China are very close allies. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday called Chinese President Xi Jinping to express Pakistan’s solidarity with the Chinese leadership and people, a statement issued by the prime minister’s office said.

Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan; editing by Nick Macfie

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