ISLAMABAD                    -                Pakistan on Thursday said China had proved to be an all-weather friend as it provided all possible help amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Speaking at a weekly news briefing here, Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said China had extended significant relief assistance to Pakistan to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

“On 28 March, a special aircraft from China brought relief assistance to Pakistan including 12,000 test kits, 300,000 masks and 10,000 protective suits. In addition to this, an 8 member medical expert team also arrived in Pakistan from China. The medical team will be in Pakistan for 2 weeks and will also visit Karachi and Lahore. Moreover, the Chinese government has also provided support worth $ 4 million for a separate hospital for Coronavirus patients,” she elaborated.

The spokesperson said private organizations in China such as the Alibaba Foundation and Jack Ma foundation had donated 50 thousand test kits and 50 million face masks. “Another special flight reached Islamabad on 2 April from Beijing, and brought in relief assistance worth $ 3 million from various Chinese organizations, which was coordinated by our Missions in China. This included PPE, (Description Personal protective equipment) ventilators, face masks and essential testing kits,” she maintained.

Aisha Farooqui said since the outbreak of Covid-19, we are in close coordination with the Chinese government. The Chinese government is following a “double-quarantine” policy for the officials of Chinese companies working on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects in Pakistan, she said.

Aisha Farooqui said the officials traveling to Pakistan spend fourteen days in quarantine in China before travelling to Pakistan and after reaching Pakistan. “They remain in quarantine for fourteen more days. Established medical procedures are also followed during the process,” the spokesperson said.

Coronavirus, she said, has now become a pandemic and international community is taking swift and aggressive measures to contain its spread. “CPEC comprises long-term projects whose completion, in many a cases, is spread over many years,” Aisha Farooqui said.

She said Pakistan was quite confident that “we will be able to complete CPEC projects in time and, going forward, the short-term impact of coronavirus will be counterbalanced by effective and swift mobilization of resources for timely completion of CPEC.”

In addition to the assistance received from China, private donors in Singapore, Japan, and UAE had also sent relief assistance, she said. “The US also earmarked $1 million for capacity building of health sector staff of Pakistan as well as for better identification and investigation of Covid-19 cases. Another US $1 million from existing funds of USAID has been redirected to help Pakistan fight against Covid-19 pandemic,” she explained.

Reiterating Prime Minister Imran Khan’s call, she said, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi highlighted the need for debt relief and restructuring for developing countries during his talks with counterparts. She said the world agreed with Pakistan’s views on debt relief. 

She pointed out that the EU Foreign Affairs Ministers’ Video Conference, International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the G-20 Summit have discussed the issue of support for the fragile countries.

She said Pakistan welcomed these endorsements as a step in the right direction and hoped they will culminate in concrete steps at the earliest. On Kashmir, Aisha Farooqui said, 55 people had tested positive for Covid-19 in the occupied territory so far.

“The Foreign Minister had a detailed telephone conversation with Secretary General Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Dr. Yousef A. Al-Othaimeen, on this subject in which he highlighted that continued restrictions on communication and movement in held Kashmir were preventing unfettered supply of medicines and other essentials, as well as dissemination of information needed to combat the disease,” she said.

“The FM also highlighted concerns regarding the possibility of spread of Covid-19 among the large number of Kashmiri youth incarcerated by India,” she added. Aisha Farooqui urged the Indian government to lift restrictions in occupied Jammu and Kashmir saying these can be deadly during a health crisis such as COVID-19 pandemic.  She said Pakistan welcomed the recent announcement by Afghan leadership on the formation of the negotiation team, which should pave the way towards the commencement of intra-Afghan negotiations process. Pakistan believes it is an important step, reflecting the commitment of the leadership to according priority to peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

Asked about Afghan envoy Atif Mashal demands temporary opening of borders for Afghans stuck in Pakistan, the spokesperson said: “The proposal is under consideration.”

Aisha Farooqui said like other countries both Pakistan and Iran were also making efforts to control the global pandemic Covid-19. Aisha Farooqui said the government was fully aware of the situation faced by Pakistan nationals as a result of travel bans imposed in different countries, following the outbreak of Covid-19. “PIA has operated special flights to bring back stranded Pakistanis from Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Qatar and Thailand.  Plans for repatriation from Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur, Tashkent, Baku, Baghdad, London and Toronto have been finalized, while plans for repatriation of our nationals from other destinations are also under active consideration.  As this is a dynamic and evolving situation, these plans will be reviewed regularly,” she said. The spokesperson said all Pakistan missions had been instructed to provide assistance to “our nationals abroad in these difficult times. This includes food, medicines, accommodation and extension of visas, in case of expiry of short-term visas.”