Pakistani students recall time in second home China during COVID-19 lockdown

Tourists visit the Yellow Crane Tower, or Huanghelou, a landmark in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, April 29, 2020. (Xinhua/Xiao Yijiu)

ISLAMABAD, May 22 (Xinhua) — Daud Younas reached his home in Pakistan’s east Gujranwala district on Thursday after spending over four good years of his life in China to pursue a degree in medicine from the Hubei University of Chinese Medicine in Wuhan.

A day before his flight to Pakistan in January, after completion of his degree, Chinese authorities imposed a lockdown in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei Province, cancelling all international flights, and like many other Pakistani students, he had to stay in China till the situation came under control.

“Psychologically it was very panicking as I was packing my bags to come back to Pakistan to stay with my family and start professional life here,” the 22-year-old told Xinhua.

Residents take nucleic acid tests at a testing post set up at a plaza in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei province, May 15, 2020.(Xinhua/Xiao Yijiu)

“But through the over four-year experience I had in China, I was mentally satisfied that I will be well cared of by my university and the Chinese authorities because China is just like second home for me and other Pakistani students because of the warmth and affection we receive from the Chinese government and people.”

He said that during the COVID-19 lockdown, the Chinese government and his university staff took good care of him and his fellow Pakistanis to make them feel at home. They were provided with free food and free necessities of life right at their doorstep. Moreover, the university administration was in direct contact with them and checked their body temperature regularly to give medical aid to any suspected COVID-19 patient.

“A Pakistani student in my university was a coronavirus suspect because he was suffering from high fever. When his health condition was noticed by the university administration, medical assistance came within no time and he was shifted to hospital where he was taken best care of for 14 days, and he told us upon his return that the people at hospital took care of him as if he was their family member.”

Medical workers help the first batch of patients infected with the novel coronavirus move into their isolation wards at Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei province, Feb. 4, 2020.(Xinhua/Xiao Yijiu)

In January, COVID-19 was a new disease for the whole world including for Pakistanis, and parents of the students in Wuhan were very concerned about their wellbeing because of the outbreak.

“I was so panicked, sometimes I used to think that my boy may contract the disease, and I would never be able to see him again. I visited Pakistan’s ministry of health, and wrote letters to the government to bring my son back, but Daud kept telling me during all that initial phase that he is being well taken care of and was very satisfied with the way his university and the Chinese authorities treated him,” Younas’s father said.

Over 28,000 Pakistani students are studying in China and most of them act as “ambassadors of China” after coming back to Pakistan because of the hospitality they receive from the government and people of China, Muhammad Raza Chohan, academic director general at the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan told Xinhua.

Abu Bakar, 25, is one of the students who experienced the lockdown in Jingzhou of Hubei province. His flight was scheduled a few days after the lockdown, but the suspension of flight service in January bound him to stay longer in China.

“Initially it was all panic, other Pakistanis and I wanted to rush back to our homes to escape the disease. Students of other nationalities were evacuated by their governments, making us more insecure of the prevailing situation, but all concerns died their natural death when the Chinese government took great care of us,” he said.

“We received everything from tooth paste to meals, free of cost during the lockdown period. Though we were not allowed to leave our rooms which sometimes caused emotionally turmoil, we knew that it was the only solution of curbing the spread, and we should stand with the Chinese government to defeat the disease.”

Upon his arrival in his hometown in Pakistan’s northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Bakar, who has completed his medical degree in China, is keen to apply as a volunteer to help his province fight against the pandemic as he believes that he has the firsthand experience and observation of the outbreak, management and control of the disease, and he can counsel the patients to adopt the right approach to defeat the infectious disease.

A child flies a kite in Hankou of Wuhan, central China’s Hubei province, April 12, 2020.(Xinhua/Xiao Yijiu)

“I learnt many things in China. Apart from being my second home, it made me what I am today by providing me good quality education and teaching me the true essence of friendship and hospitality during the last days of my stay in China during the lockdown.”

A special Pakistan International Airlines flight, carrying 274 Pakistani students, arrived in Islamabad from Wuhan on Monday night. The returning students told Xinhua that they were shifted to quarantine facilities in Islamabad for a day where they were tested of COVID-19 and were allowed to leave for their homes after all of them were reported negative.

The Foreign Ministry of Pakistan said on the occasion of Pakistani students’ return that the government of Pakistan highly appreciates the efforts of the government and people of China for extending full support and cooperation to the students, as Wuhan defeated COVID-19.