China on Monday welcomed “iron brother” Pakistan’s decision not to evacuate its nationals from coronavirus-stricken Hubei and the city of Wuhan, saying it was a sign of Islamabad’s confidence in Beijing’s ability to control the outbreak.

Until Sunday midnight, coronavirus outbreak had killed 361 people and infected more than 17000. The numbers are set to surge in the weeks ahead. Majority of the cases including the deaths are from Hubei. Several hundred Pakistani students are based in currently locked down Wuhan, majority of them studying medicine and many on Chinese government scholarships. Few among the stranded Pakistani students uploaded videos on social media, complaining about their situation, and comparing it with that of Indian students from their universities, who were evacuated from Wuhan by India over the weekend.

The complaints haven’t changed the decision, which was mutually taken by Beijing and Islamabad.

“China and Pakistan are iron-clad friends that share a good tradition of mutual assistance. As China fights the outbreak, Pakistan has stood firmly with us, maintaining flights and pooling medical supplies all over the country to help China,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying said in an online press briefing.

“Indeed, as Pakistani Prime Minister and foreign minister noted, they highly commend and firmly support China’s efforts to fight against the nCoV (novel Coronavirus). They also appreciate China’s assistance for Pakistani citizens in China and express confidence in China winning this battle with the strength of its system. The Pakistani people are standing firmly with their Chinese brethren,” Hua said.

The Pakistan government had announced last week that it will not evacuate its citizens from Wuhan or Hubei

The decision that Islamabad will not evacuate its citizens during a phone call between Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and state councilor and foreign minister, Wang Yi last week.

Wang said that taking care of Pakistani citizens was a priority for China’s government.

“We are deeply grateful and touched by such trust and confidence. China will continue to work in close communication and coordination with Pakistan to safeguard the health of Pakistanis in China,” Hua said on Monday.

“Like Pakistan, many other countries have also expressed full confidence in China. We thank them. We have the confidence and the capability to win the fight against the outbreak as soon as possible and safeguard the life and health of their citizens in China,” she added.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to China Naghmana Hashmi was quoted by Pakistani media as saying on Sunday that Pakistani students should not be evacuated from the virus-hit Chinese city of Wuhan as medical facilities in Pakistan do not meet the standards required to treat a patient diagnosed with coronavirus.

The Chinese foreign ministry, meanwhile, lashed out at the US for, what it said, were “unnecessary” and “excessive” restrictions on China because of the outbreak.

“However, regrettably, it was precisely the US and some other developed countries with sound health systems and advanced public health capabilities that imposed unnecessary or even excessive restrictions on China, which clearly runs counter to WHO advice,” Hua said.

Hua accused Washington of causing “panic” in its response to the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

China’s criticism follows the US decision to declare a public health emergency and deny entry to foreign nationals who had visited China in the past two weeks.

Hua added that the US actions “could only create and spread fear” instead of offering assistance.

She said the US was the first country to impose a travel ban on Chinese travellers and the first to suggest a partial withdrawal of its embassy staff.

As of February 2, 16 foreigners in China have been infected with the Coronavirus Among them, 2 have recovered and been discharged from hospital, and 14 are in quarantine and in stable conditions.