ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government has decided not to repatriate its citizens stranded in China from the coronavirus-hit Wuhan city to show "solidarity" with China, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Zafar Mirza said on Thursday.
"We believe that right now, it is in the interest of our loved ones in China [to stay there]. It is in the larger interest of the region, world, country that we don't evacuate them now," Dawn quoted him while addressing the media at a press conference in Islamabad.
"This is what the World Health Organisation is saying, this is China's policy and this is our policy as well. We stand by China in full solidarity," he said.
On Wednesday, Mirza had announced that up to four Pakistani students in China were diagnosed with the coronavirus.
A large proportion of the Pakistanis living in China were students of which over 500 students were based in the central city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the new virus.
However, refuting the idea of repatriating the citizens from the East Asian country, the official said, "Right now the government of China has contained this epidemic in Wuhan city. If we act irresponsibly and start evacuating people from there, this epidemic will spread all over the world like wildfire."
"So far, China has not allowed evacuation [of people]," he said. "You will, of course, remind me the United States has evacuated its diplomatic staff -- not all citizens. This is a condition of the Vienna Convention which dictates that the host country can allow diplomats to leave if their country wishes for them to return," he added.
Mirza said that the embassy in China was in contact with the Pakistani citizens and once again expressed faith in China's policies to contain the virus.
According to media reports, a total of 7711 confirmed cases have been reported in China and 170 people have died due to the virus.
Some countries, including India, Canada and the United States, have started evacuating their citizens from Wuhan. Heath camps have also been set up in different countries to screen passengers arriving from China.