June 06, 2020
BEIJING - A Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) special flight carrying 272 Pakistanis mostly students left Tianhe International Airport, Wuhan, China for Islamabad on Friday. These Pakistanis were stranded in Wuhan, Hubei province, adjoining areas and other cities due to cancellations of flights and lockdown in wake of COVID-19 pandemic, according to official sources.
It was PIA's third such flight from China and second from Wuhan in last three weeks. The previous two flights were operated from Wuhan and Shanghai on May 18 and June 2 respectively. On May 18, a total of 274 Pakistanis, mostly students were airlifted to Pakistan from Wuhan and on June 2, another 206 Pakistani passengers were transported from Shanghai.
Around 1,300 Pakistani students were studying in different universities in China's Hubei province, including 800 students in Wuhan, epicenter of novel coronavirus outbreak, when the Chinese government decided to declare a lockdown in the city as well as the province. In pursuance of the instructions of the Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the Pakistani embassy had shortlisted passengers with urgent travel requirements for early return.
The returning students were studying in the several universities of Hubei and continued staying in China after the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. During the state visit of President Arif Alvi to Beijing on March 16-17, the President and the Foreign Minister had held a tele-conference with Pakistani students and assured to bring them back to Pakistan at an opportune time. The Embassy had remained in close contact with the students in Wuhan and Hubei and sent a two-member task force, which stayed there till the lockdown was lifted on April 8, 2020.
Special arrangements were made by the Embassy of Pakistan for flight operation to ensure the health and safety of all passengers. A special unit of four embassy officers was constituted to liaison with the PIA, Pakistani students and relevant Chinese departments to finalise the arrangements. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China and local authorities of Hubei province extended complete support and had put in place special arrangements to facilitate the returning students. All passengers upon arriving in Pakistan would be subject to relevant procedures of Government of Pakistan for containing the spread of disease.