KARACHI: The Pakistani health authorities on Wednesday confirmed two positive cases of COVID-19 or novel Coronavirus in the country, saying both the persons tested positive for the lethal virus, one each in Karachi and Islamabad, who had traveled to Iran for pilgrimage to holy sites and on their return to the country, they tested positive for the disease. In view of the emergent situation, both Sindh and Balochistan governments have closed down all academic institutions.
“I can confirm the first two cases of coronavirus in Pakistan. Both cases are being taken care of according to the clinical standard protocols and both of them are stable. There is no need to panic, things are under control,” Special Assistant to Prime Minister Dr. Zafar Mirza said in a tweet after the Sindh health department announced that young man had been tested positive for Coronavirus in Karachi and undergoing treatment at an isolation ward of a private hospital in the city.
The Sindh health department confirmed the first patient as Syed Muhammad Yahya Jaffri, 22, a resident of Karachi who had traveled to Mashhad and Tehran in Iran, saying he flew back to Pakistan last week and developed symptoms similar to those of having the respiratory disease caused by COVID-19. “The 22-year-old Jaffri returned from Iran to Karachi by plane. He and his family have been placed in quarantine and the health department is examining all the passengers he had traveled with,” said Meeran Yousuf, a spokesperson for the Sindh Health Minister Dr. Azra Fazal Pechuho.
The Sindh health department officials informed The News that the patient left for Karachi from Tehran on 20th February 2020 and remained asymptomatic till 23rd February 2020. On February 24, he developed a productive cough and postnasal drip on 25th February 2020, following which he visited AKUH on 26th February 2020 and was promptly admitted. According to health officials, after Jafrri tested positive for the COVID-19, his family members and some friends were also quarantined. The officials confirmed that their samples were also being analysed to ascertain if they too have any trace of the infection.
The second person, who also tested positive for the fearsome disease is a resident of Islamabad and hails from Gilgit Baltistan. The patient had also traveled to Iran and returned to Pakistan last week, where he developed symptoms similar to COVID-19. He was advised to get himself examined at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, Islamabad. “The patient, in the early 50s, tested positive for COVD-19 and is undergoing treatment at an isolation ward at PIMS. Both the patients including one in Karachi and the other at Islamabad are in stable condition,” an official of the National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination confirmed.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister Dr. Zafar Mirza along with Balochistan Prime Minister Jam Kamal addressed a hurriedly called news conference in Quetta and asked the people not to panic, saying the situation is under control and both the provincial and federal governments are working jointly to prevent people from the infectious disease.
Meanwhile, all the educational institutions of Balochistan have been closed down for a fortnight after which their status will be further reviewed at the end of this period, a notification of the provincial government issued. Balochistan borders Iran and Afghanwith which it shares borders porous borders and both the countries have confirmed cases of coronavirus. In a related development, Sindh Information Minister Saeed Ghani announced closing down all educational institutions across the province for Thursday and Friday (Feb 27, 28). Ghani on his twitter handle announced the closure of all academic institutions throughout Sindh for two days.
In a rather strange development, personal protective equipment including masks, overalls and other material has practically vanished from Pakistani markets and pharmacies while in many areas, people said ordinary masks and other equipment were being sold at exorbitant rates.
Meanwhile, health specialists have advised people not to panic, consider coronavirus as a disease similar to flu and adopt the similar precautions including maintaining personal hygiene of washing hands regularly with soap, maintaining social distance and boosting their immunity with fruits and vegetables, drinking plenty of water and taking proper sleep.
Muhammad Qasim/ Agencies add from Rawalpindi: A resident of Skardu admitted in isolation ward for a couple of days has been confirmed positive for illness caused by 2019 novel coronavirus. The Executive Director at PIMS Dr Ansar Masood, when contacted by 'The News' late Wednesday night, however, said he has not been confirmed about positive status of the patient.
Meanwhile, a woman was admitted to hospital who was suffering from influenza in Jhelum on Wednesday. She was kept in quarantine as it was suspected that she might carry symptoms of coronavirus.
Talking 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 Minister Murad Ali Shah's orders.
Talking 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, one in 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.
With porous borders, creaking hospitals and large illiterate populations, Afghanistan and Pakistan face a potentially devastating health crisis after the new coronavirus erupted in neighbouring Iran.
Islamabad has closed official border crossings while Kabul has suspended all travel to the Islamic republic, which has reported 15 deaths out of nearly 100 infections -- making it one of the hardest hit countries outside the virus epicentre China.
But experts fear the measures could prove ineffective with thousands of people -- refugees fleeing violence, pilgrims, smugglers and migrants looking for work -- likely crossing the long, poorly patrolled frontiers every day. The virus has spread to more than 25 countries, killing over 2,700 and infecting 80,000, mostly in China. But new outbreaks in Europe, the Middle East and in Asia have fanned fears of the contagion taking hold in poor nations which lack the healthcare infrastructure to cope.
Meanwhile, Senate’s Foreign Committee Chairman Mushahid Husain has said that government should adopt that kind of strategy which has been adopted by China to cope with coronavirus. While talking to the media in Karachi, he said that government should take emergency steps in this regard. He said that government should seal its borders with those countries where cases of coronavirus are found.
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