CPEC Engineers Advised to Stay in China Due to Coronavirus Outbreak

Chinese engineers and labor working on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects have been advised to extend their vacation till precautionary measures to limit the spread of coronavirus are in place.

This was revealed by senior officials of the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives.

They said that the matter was raised at a diplomatic level and in response the Chinese government has provided medical kits to avert the spread of the viral infection.

China has been screening passengers to limit the spread of coronavirus, however, the government of Pakistan has also developed standard operating procedures (SOPs) and thermal scanners have been provided to health staff at airports in Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad to screen all passengers. Sources said that after the outbreak of the virus in China, Pakistan has initiated screening at 19 entry points from China.

To a question, Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Siddiqui, said that the movement of Chinese officials working on CPEC projects is temporarily suspended as many of them were already on holiday due to the Chinese New Year adding that the Chinese authorities are taking precautionary measures to limit the spread of coronavirus. “The suspension is temporary and it is not affecting CPEC related shipments”, she added.

Sources revealed that most of the engineers, as well as labor deployed at CPEC projects, are Chinese. The movement of all those engineers and labor who recently returned from China has been restricted and all must be screened until the situation improves.

Another official of the Ministry of Health said that they have advised the Chinese engineers and labor currently in China to prolong their stay in their country.

Senior Customs officials said that coronavirus spreads through human contact and not through shipment of goods, plant machinery, and equipment. Therefore it is not necessary to do additional scanning of goods and machinery coming from China. Sources further said that Khunjerab Pass (Pak-China) is already closed due to heavy snowfall and is expected to reopen by April.

Sajid Shah Spokesperson National Health, Regulation, and Services Ministry said that Pakistan has issued SOPs to manage the inflow of international passengers and isolating those suspected of having contracted the disease and placing them in designated healthcare facilities.

He added:

In view of the rapid spread of coronavirus, human-to-human transmission and considering that Pakistan is China’s neighbor with potential risk of cross-border transmission of the virus, the government of Pakistan is taking necessary measures in compliance with the International Health Regulations (IHR-2005) for prevention and preparedness for this public health event at points of entry. In this regard, advisories, guidelines, standard protocols were issued by the Ministry of Health.

The government has reinforced its facilities for screening at the ports of entry. “We are on high alert and taken measures we needed to have taken as a responsible government as there are clear instructions from the prime minister in this regard,” he said, adding that emergency operation cell at the federal health ministry is monitoring the situation round the clock.

Replying to a question, he said that it will delay the passengers’ arrival as screening is mandatory to avoid an outbreak of the virus in Pakistan.

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