ISLAMABAD - Pakistan announced Thursday airport authorities have begun screening travelers from neighboring China for signs of the coronavirus.
China's recent billions of dollars of investments in infrastructure development projects in Pakistan has led to a spike in the number of people traveling between the two countries, including thousands of Chinese workers.
Pakistani officials said more than 40 direct or indirect flights from China land every week at three main airports, including Karachi, the country's largest city, Lahore and the national capital of Islamabad.
"These points of entry are being closely monitored in line with international health regulations," Pakistani State Minister of Health Zafar Mirza said in a statement.
No cases reported yet
However, he noted, Pakistan has so far not reported any case of the coronavirus, which seems to have originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
"Major hospitals in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad are also being linked with surveillance systems on airports, seaports and ground crossings," Mirza told the state-run broadcaster.
He said emergency measures are being put in place in coordination with the Chinese embassy in Islamabad to make sure that a large number of Chinese workers, who recently went to their homeland in connection with their New Year's celebrations, are strictly screened when they return back.
WHO has confirmed nearly 500 cases, including nearly 20 deaths, all are said to be in or from China.
The Pakistani government, Mirza said, was in constant touch with Chinese counterparts and the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure strengthened national surveillance and quarantine systems.
Chinese officials cordoned off Wuhan starting Thursday in their bid to limit the spread of the disease nationally and internationally. Public transport in the city of 11 million people has been suspended, airports and train stations temporarily shut, and residents instructed not to exit Wuhan unless there are "special reasons."
International health experts are scrambling to contain the disease, but the virus is new and not much is known about it.
The disease is mainly transmitted from animals to humans, but scientists have ascertained that there is limited human-to-human transmission. Health experts are warning people to avoid coming in close contact with people suspected of carrying the virus.