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Coronavirus cases in Pakistan: Only 2.23pc of 224 suspected patients test positive

Top Story

March 4, 2020

KARACHI/ISLAMABAD: Only five persons or 2.23 percent of the total of 224 suspected patients who were tested for coronavirus throughout the country since the first week of February 2020 have been diagnosed with the respiratory illness, officials at the National Institute of Health Islamabad said on Tuesday, saying the virus has not claimed any life in Pakistan.

All the five coronavirus patients, who are undergoing treatment at the health facilities in Karachi and Islamabad, had the history of travelling to Iran, officials said adding that at the moment, hundreds of people who have returned from Iran are being monitored and suspected cases are being tested for the viral disease.

The NIH Islamabad, as well as the Aga Khan University Hospital and Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) Karachi, started testing for coronavirus in the first week of February 2020 after acquiring probes and primers from different international sources and soon after the Government of Pakistan declared them as the focal points for the testing and diagnosis of coronavirus or COVID-19.

The officials of the National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad, on Tuesday said 53 suspected patients were tested for the coronavirus in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), of which "only two tested positive" for the COVID-19, while 51 were found negative.

Similarly, the health authorities in Sindh tested as many as 60 suspected patients, claimed an official of the Sindh Health Department, of which "only two were tested positive" for the coronavirus infection, while 58 were negative for the viral disease. There is a 'discrepancy' in the total number of suspected cases of Sindh. While the province says it had so far 60 suspects, the NIH confirms only 21 cases.

The NIH Islamabad authorities, however, said only 21 suspected patients were tested for corononavirus, and of them two were tested positive while the remaining 19 were cleared of having the lethal respiratory illness caused by the global epidemic.

As many as nine people were tested for coronavirus in Gilgit Baltistan, of which one person was tested positive while all the remaining 8 persons were found negative, officials said.

In the Punjab province, 68 persons were tested for coronavirus, officials said adding that all of them were found negative for the disease and added that in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 23 suspected patients were tested for the coronavirus and all of them were found negative for the disease.

The National Institute of Health Islamabad officials said eight persons from Balochistan and three from the Azad Jammu and Kashmir were also tested and all of them were found to be negative for the coronavirus.

There are unsubstantiated rumours of scores of suspects under treatment in Sindh, which however were rejected by both the focal centres i.e. AKUH and DUHS. The AKUH said only one case was tested positive at the hospital’s lab for coronavirus or COVID-19, adding that AKUH is aware and has taken note of some individuals/groups posting fake and unsubstantiated news regarding the number of confirmed coronavirus cases and causing unnecessary panic. In an official statement, the hospital said: “We are actively screening patients to ensure we do not miss any case. To date, only one person has been confirmed to have COVID-19 at the facility”.

The Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) also rejected rumours of admitting over 400 coronavirus patients, saying at the moment, they don’t have even a single patient of COVID-19 under treatment at the health facility.

With the positive diagnosis of a 45 year-old woman from Gilgit-Baltistan, five people in Pakistan are now confirmed to have acquired Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19). The woman, who is being treated at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), is stated to be out of danger. The confirmation came from the PM’s Special Assistant on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza, who tweeted, “We now have the 5th confirmed case of COVID-19 in federal areas. Patient is stable and is being managed well. I request the media to respect the privacy of the patient and the family.”

Meanwhile, the Emergency Core Group on COVID-19 met here on Tuesday to take stock of ongoing preparedness and response measures. The meeting was presided over by Dr. Zafar and was also attended by the Executive Director of the National Institute of Health, representatives of the Pakistan Army, and numerous other experts.

“Round-the-clock monitoring is being done and emergency measures are in place to tackle the disease. The Pak-Afghan border at Chaman has been sealed for a week for further strengthening of the surveillance system,” Dr. Zafar apprised the participants. The SAPM assured that foolproof emergency measures are being taken, and requested all provinces and stakeholders to proactively contribute to ongoing efforts for control of COVID-19. “There is no need to worry; we are keeping a close eye on all aspects,” he stated.

On the contrary, a video circulating on social media exposed the poor state of surveillance and screening at the Taftan border. The video shows the so-called medical camps erected outside Pakistan House in total disarray, with no signs of human resource or medical facilities on site to examine travelers returning home from Iran. The video shows incoming travelers sleeping on the floor, side by side, with no preventive arrangements whatsoever.

“We have no place to sleep, no food, and no water. We were told that we will be facilitated on behalf of the Prime Minister. Where are the promised screening and testing facilities? There are no camps, no doctors, and no diagnostic facilities here. Even prisoners are better off than us; at least they get two square meals a day. All men and women, the young and the elderly, as well as children, have been dumped in one big hallway. What kind of treatment is this? We are being treated as untouchables; they tell us to maintain a distance of at least 3 feet from them when we speak. Shame on the government for lying to us and for suppressing our voices,” states an unnerved young man featured in the video.

“We are citizens of Pakistan. We want our rights,” the man argues, appealing to the prime minister and the COAS to dispatch a medical team for investigation so that any person who has acquired COVID-19 can be quarantined, and the rest of them be cleared for return to their respective cities.

Meanwhile, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has established a 300-bedded temporary quarantine facility for COVID-19 in Islamabad within a record seven days. “All travelers arriving in Pakistan from Iran, China and other countries battling the COVID emergency will be quarantined in this centre for 15 days,” a spokesperson of NDMA informed.

The facility also houses a dispensary and a cafeteria. NDMA has additionally acquired three latest scanners at a cost of Rs. 20 million for screening of passengers; these have been installed at various airports, it has been learnt.