On Friday, Pakistan stopped flights to and from China with immediate effect, a civil aviation official told a foreign news agency that the virus death toll had reached 213 and the World Health Organization (WHO) called it a global health emergency.
“We’re suspending flights to China until Feb 2,” further aviation secretary Abdul Sattar Khokhar told Reuters by telephone, adding that the situation would be checked after that date.
He refused to comment about what caused the closure.
Some airlines, like British Airways, have already suspended flights to China due to coronavirus outbreak warnings.
Suspension of flight operations will add to the concerns of Pakistani nationals in China, as they pleaded with the government for their immediate evacuation.
While all major countries are bringing their citizens from Wuhan, the epicenter of the deadly outbreak of the virus, Pakistan announced on Thursday that it was “unwise” to evacuate Pakistanis from China.
Dr Zafar Mirza, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Health, said, “We don’t want to make any emotional decision that will cause this virus to spread further,” he said.
“It is also our responsibility to ensure that our Wuhan citizens are properly cared for and see to it whether or not they are provided with food or items of daily use,” he added.
‘ Do not go to China ‘
On Friday, the United States advised its citizens to flee China after World Health Organization declared a global emergency for coronavirus.
Read More: Drugs: You Use, You Lose
The State Department increased the alarm alert to the highest level, asking Americans to “don’t travel” to China and encouraging them to leave already.
Hours earlier, the WHO, which was criticized for initially minimizing the threat of the virus, changed its approach after the Geneva crisis talks.
“Our main concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems,” said WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in the context of the emergency.
“We all need to act together now to limit further spread… we can only stop it together.”
China said Friday it was planning to send charter planes to bring back residents of Hubei who are now abroad, citing the “practical difficulties” they encountered abroad. Those from Wuhan are returned to their quarantined city, the ministry of foreign affairs said.
Death toll growth
China has taken extreme steps to stop the spread of the virus, including effectively quarantining more than 50 million people in Wuhan and surrounding Hubei Province.
But there continues to swell the number of new deaths and incidents.
Following 43 new deaths, all but one in Hubei, the death toll was hiked to 213 on Friday. Most deaths have been elderly people.
China’s National Health Commission also said Friday that 1,982 new cases had been confirmed, bringing the total to 9,692.
This exceeds 8.096 cases of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), a similar pathogen that spread to more than two dozen countries in 2002-03 and killed 774 people, mostly in China and Hong Kong.
Airlifts carry on
Since it was sealed off last week thousands of foreigners have been trapped in Wuhan and countries have been scrambling to organize evacuation flights for their nationals.
Read More: Instagram bans cosmetic surgery filters
France airlifted around 200 of its citizens out of the city on Friday. They’ll be placed back home under a two-week quarantine.
Britain followed suit in a matter of hours, extracting 110 British and foreign nationals.
“It’s sad to leave the country you’re attached to,” Adrien, a 26-year-old French auto industry employee, told AFP before the flight. “We’re also relieved because we don’t know how things will turn out in China.” Japan and the United States were the first to fly citizens out on Wednesday.
Others who did include South Korea and India.
Upon arriving home, three people on board Japan’s first evacuation flight screened positively, two of whom had no symptoms, underlining the challenge of detecting coronavirus.
Japan has drawn criticism by allowing its evacuees to “self-quarantine”.