In a positive development Chinese staff working on CPEC projects return back to Pakistan via special flight
ISLAMABAD - Gezhouba Group, a Chinese construction and engineering company, sent 131 Chinese workers on a charter flight operated by China Southern Airlines to Pakistan in an effort to ensure projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) proceed, the company's website said.
The group has several hydropower station projects in Pakistan. The 131 staff had returned to China for the New Year Holidays and had become stuck due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The group gathered from around the nation in Urumqi, Xinjiang link Uygur Autonomous Region, on Friday to board the flight to Islamabad later that day.
The workers must undergo a 14-day quarantine on arrival.
The CPEC, a flagship project under the China-proposed Belt and Road link Initiative which involves about $50 billion in investment, has been impacted by the virus with some projects facing delays, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told the Global Times in a recent interview.
A senior manager at Gwadar Port, a major project under the CPEC, told the Global Times that the port has been operating as normal, but due to the pandemic, many clients were facing difficulty retrieving their cargos.
Gezhouba Group were not available for comment as it was the weekend, but the return of workers seems to be part of the joint efforts made by China and Pakistan to continue work on CPEC projects, following Pakistani President Arif Alvi's visit to Beijing last week.
"It wasn't easy to gather so many workers from Urumqi, and then fly to Islamabad. We had support from many departments, including the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan and the National Institute of Health of Pakistan," Zhang Zhiqiang, vice director of Gezhouba Group's Pakistan projects, was quoted as saying by CRI online.
During Alvi's visit to Beijing, which was aimed at showing solidarity between the nations, the two sides said every effort would be made to ensure CPEC projects get back on track as soon as possible.
"I don't think it'll have an impact on the CPEC in the long run... As soon as we are over the hump of dealing with the coronavirus, I think we'll be back on track," Qureshi told the Global Times.