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Pakistan reports first coronavirus case in Karachi, raising infected toll to two

'All safety measures have been taken and we will take emergency steps after this case,' said Murtaza Wahab

February 27, 2020
Pakistan confirms first two coronavirus cases in Karachi and Islamabad. The News/Files

KARACHI: Two coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Pakistan's port city, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza confirmed on Wednesday, minutes after the first case was reported in Pakistan's port city.

"I can confirm first two cases of corona virus in Pakistan. Both cases are being taken care of according to clinical standard protocols & both of them are stable," Dr Mirza wrote on Twitter.

He also noted that there was "no need to panic [as] things are under control".

'Do not spread this information'

Addressing a press conference shortly after first case of coronavirus was reported, SAPM Dr Mirza spoke of medical ethics and stressed not to "share information of the patient".

"I request you that even if you know, do not spread this information,” he said. However, he confirmed that one case each was reported in Sindh and Islamabad.

"Both of them travelled to Iran recently and I think it is necessary to tell the people that we should not panic," he said, emphasising on prevention and showing responsibility.

The SAPM informed people that a helpline — 1166 — had been set up for coronavirus patients. "Please don’t hesitate to call the number," he said.

Earlier, a spokesperson for the Sindh health department confirmed that the 22-year-old patient — Pakistan's first case — had arrived in an aeroplane from Iran and has a history of travel to Tehran from where he reportedly acquired the virus.

He was suffering from coronavirus symptoms while he was in Iran, it mentioned.

Screening machines may not have worked

The young man and his family were immediately placed in quarantine at a private hospital on the National Stadium Road. The health department was, as of reporting time, obtaining details of the passengers he travelled with.

Further, the provincial health department was set to dispatch a team to inspect his residence as well as his neighbourhood.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) standard operating procedures (SOP) dictate that everyone who came into contact with the infected person should be checked for the virus.

The 22-year-old's condition reportedly started to deteriorate on February 18 and he underwent a hijama, or cupping therapy, at a local health centre in Iranian city of Mashhad. After that, he suffered from a headache.

He arrived in Karachi on February 20, indicating that there were chances that the thermal screening machines at the airports for those entering the country may not have worked after all. The machines are supposed to immediately detect higher-than-usual body temperature.

'Three isolation wards in Sindh'

Speaking to Geo News, Sindh government spokesperson Senator Murtaza Wahab confirmed the case and said: "All safety measures have been taken and we will take emergency steps after this case. Most arrangements are being made by the centre but the Sindh government will play its part as well."

Sindh Information Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah said the provincial government was "working to procure the data of the infected" under Chief Minster Murad Ali Shah's orders.

Speaking on Geo News' programme Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Saath, Shah, the information minister, added that isolation wards were being set up in different hospitals around the province.

"We are taking the data of all the people who were travelling with the infected person on his flight," he added. "There are three isolation wards in Sindh, one in Civil Hospital [Dr Ruth K. M. Pfau Civil Hospital], one in Jinnah [Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC)], and one in AKUH [Aga Khan University Hospital].

"The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), Sindh, has also been alerted" in this regard.

In this regard, the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan said they had "learned with heavy heart of two confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pakistan".

"We hope the speedy recovery of the patients. China stands ready to work with Pakistan in the fight against #COVID-19," it added.

Pakistan closes Iran border 

Late last week, Pakistan closed off its border with Iran, where 19 people have died of coronavirus so far, while another 139 people — including the country's deputy health minister, Iraj Harirchi — infected. Tehran's death toll is the highest than any country other than China.

Further, sources informed Geo News that the government of Balochistan had also stopped pilgrims from travelling to Iran via Taftan border.

The virus has originated in China, where it has killed more than 2,700 people so far.

Around the world, over 80,000 people have been infected with coronavirus, as per the World Health Organization (WHO), with most of the cases in China — above 78,000.