China on Tuesday defended Pakistan and Nepal governments' decision to not to evacuate their citizens from the coronavirus-hit Wuhan city despite their desperate pleas, saying it has taken "effective measures" to respond to the concerns of the stranded foreign nationals.
Hundreds of Pakistani and Nepali students are still held up in Wuhan and some of them have said that they feel abandoned by their governments which were sacrificing them in order to keep their relationships with China strong.
While India, the US, Sri Lanka, Japan, Bangladesh and many other countries have evacuated their nationals from Wuhan over concerns of them contracting the virus, Pakistan declined pleas by its stranded citizens in the city to airlift them.
Pakistan's Ambassador to China Naghmana Hashmi earlier said that Pakistani students should not be evacuated from Wuhan as the medical facilities back home do not meet the standards required to treat a patient diagnosed with the coronavirus.
A number of Pakistani students stranded in Wuhan have been tweeting regularly appealing to the government to evacuate them, citing India and other countries' moves to airlift their nationals.
India has airlifted 647 Indians and seven Maldivians from the worst-hit Hubei province through special Air India flights on February 1 and 2. Indian officials say there are still 80 to 100 Indian nationals held up in the virus hit province.
Asked about China's reaction to the plight of Pakistani and Nepali students, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that China attaches great importance to the health and safety of all foreign nationals in Wuhan, Hubei province.
We have taken effective measures to timely respond to their concerns and requests. Chief of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also stressed many times that flying out in a rush is not recommended, the best way being stay put and enhancing self-protection," Geng said.
The entire Hubei province has been under lockdown since January 23 as a measure to contain the spread of the deadly virus. The death toll on Monday shot up to 1,016 with 108 new fatalities, reported mostly in the worst-affected Hubei province while the confirmed cases of infection have soared to over 42,600, Chinese health officials said on Tuesday.
Geng said China will make relevant arrangements and offer necessary assistance for those countries who want to evacuate their nationals.
WHO also stressed many times that it does not recommend imposing travel and trade restrictions on China. As some countries have taken such excessive steps as suspending flights, ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) has also issued bulletins and encouraged all countries to follow WHO recommendations. We hope the professional recommendations of WHO and ICAO will be respected," Geng said.
He also praised Pakistan Senate resolution expressing full solidarity and support to China in combating the coronavirus.
"China and Pakistan are iron-clad friends and all-weather strategic cooperative partners with a tradition of mutual assistance," Geng said.
China stands ready to strengthen cooperation with Pakistan and other members of the international community to combat the epidemic and contribute to global public health, he said.
With a highly responsible attitude, we will also enhance communication and coordination with Pakistan and do our best to ensure the health and safety of Pakistani nationals in China, he said.
Pakistan's Ambassador Hashmi told a meeting here on February 7 that there were over 1,000 Pakistani students in Hubei province. Of this, 729 were in provincial capital Wuhan.
All are in fine health and nobody has been affected, she had said and asked them to stay firm, to have faith and to be patient.
Nepal too has not responded positively to the appeals made by Nepali students urging their government to evacuate them.
China on Monday said the the SARS-like coronavirus outbreak coronavirus outbreak infected 27 foreign nationals in China and two of them -- an American woman and a Japanese man -- have died.
While China has not given the details of the foreign nationals who contracted the virus, reports said four Pakistanis were being treated for the coronavirus attack.
Pakistan had joined other world airlines in suspending flights to China over virus fears, raising eyebrows here considering Islamabad's all-weather ties with Beijing. However, it later resumed the flights.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)