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Coronavirus outbreak: Pakistan’s sixth case confirmed: Dr Zafar

By Agencies & News Report
March 06, 2020

KARACHI/ISLAMABAD/RIYADH/DUBAI/TEHRAN/LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK/LONDON/NEW DELHI: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza said on Thursday that the sixth case of the coronavirus in Pakistan had been confirmed.

Taking to Twitter, Dr Mirza said that the patient "is in clinically stable condition in Sindh and is being well taken care of."

Earlier, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah was told during a meeting at the CM House on Thursday that another person had contracted the novel coronavirus from Karachi. The Sindh health department confirmed the third coronavirus case to emerge from the province. The 69-year-old patient has a history of traveling to Iran and had returned on 25th February, 2020. He was being monitored by the health department and was tested today when the symptoms showed up.

The chief minister reportedly directed the provincial government to have all those who came into contact with the person tested for the virus. The Sindh government has been grappling with the coronavirus problem as two cases of the novel virus were confirmed in Pakistan last week, one in Karachi.

As a precautionary measure, the Sindh government had directed all schools, colleges, universities, tuition centres and other educational institutions to remain closed till March 13. The provincial government suspended several schools' registrations for remaining open despite the Sindh government's orders.

Dr Zafar Mirza Thursday urged that the nation not to pay heed to any rumour over the coronavirus as a vested quarter is trying to mislead people with fake information. Talking to Private news, Zafar Mirza said the government is well-prepared to prevent the deadly coronavirus which badly spread other countries, adding, government has taken adequate measures to ensure that the disease does not spread further.

Dr Zafar said the Health Ministry has taken all-out preparations to provide necessary treatment if anyone in the country is found infected with coronavirus. Talking about schools, Special Assistant said the coronavirus situation in the country is not serious enough that schools need to be closed. He said the National Ministry of Health had not suggested that schools be shut down. However, provinces are free to make their own decisions in this regard.

He urged people not to panic and remain hopeful. The public shouldn’t chase after masks but wash their hands frequently and maintain good hygiene, he advised. Every cold or flu is not the coronavirus, said the PM’s aide. However, those with a cold or flu should avoid visiting crowded places.

People returning from China and Iran should stay in isolation for 14 days, he said. There is no restriction on Pakistanis outside Wuhan city returning to the country.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia on Thursday emptied Islam's holiest site for sterilisation over fears of the new coronavirus, an unprecedented move after the kingdom suspended the year-round Umrah pilgrimage.

State television relayed stunning images of an empty white-tiled area surrounding the Kaaba which is usually packed with tens of thousands of pilgrims. The move was a "temporary preventive measure" but the upper floors of the Grand Mosque were still open for prayers, a Saudi official said. He called the measure "unprecedented".

Saudi Arabia on Thursday declared three new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of reported infections to five.

On Wednesday, the kingdom halted the Umrah pilgrimage for its own citizens and residents. The move came after authorities last week suspended visas for the Umrah and barred citizens from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council from entering Mecca and Medina.

Saudi Arabia is treading a tightrope as it bars Muslim pilgrims from Islam´s holiest sites to contain the coronavirus, rolling out restrictions that while essential could prove both expensive and politically perilous.

The kingdom has suspended the "Umrah" year-round pilgrimage over fears of the disease spreading to Makkah and Medina, raising uncertainty over the upcoming Haj -- a key pillar of Islam.

The pilgrimages, which pack millions of people into relative small religious sites, could be a major source of contagion and the move mirrors a precautionary approach across the Gulf to cancel mass gatherings -- from concerts to sporting events.

But the issue is still a potential powder keg in a volatile region where it risks riling fringe hardliners for whom religion trumps health considerations. And some devout Muslims view the pilgrimages as an important rite of passage, whatever the risks.

Saudi Arabia has said its Umrah restrictions are temporary but they have not gone down well with many pilgrims who endure years-long waiting lists and invest their life savings to make the trip.

One foreign pilgrim in Makkah said last week that he would happily die a "martyr" if he got infected, rather than skip the pilgrimage.

The Indonesian embassy in Riyadh said it was appealing to Saudi authorities to permit its nationals to press ahead with their plans, after many voiced disappointment over the decision.

Meanwhile, Muslims in the UAE are advised to arrive for Friday prayers well in time as duration of Friday prayers including Khutba on March 6 has been reduced to 10-minute only, foreign media reported on Thursday.

According to Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department (ICAD) in Dubai, the ‘Khutba’--Friday sermon before the prayer will also be shortened and will focus on preventive measures against coronavirus.

“Khutba and the Friday prayer (namaz) will be completed within 10-minute,” said a customer service agent at the ICAD. Normally, only Khutab is delivered in 15 to 20 minutes in addition to time to offer prayers. At an average, Friday prayers lasts for about half an hour. Friday prayers in Dubai will start at 12.33pm.

Earlier, the UAE’s Sharia Council has already issued a fatwa prohibiting those infected or suspected of contracting coronavirus from attending congregational prayers including Friday prayer, Eid prayer and being in public places.

While, Iran on Thursday reported 15 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, raising the national toll to 107, and said it would keep schools and universities closed until early April.

But the number of the dead could be higher, according to a tally reported by state news agency IRNA. Data gathered by the agency from medical universities across Iran as of Wednesday night show at least 126 have died, as it lists the toll in Tehran and Gilan -- two of the worst-hit provinces -- as "unknown".

Iran has already suspended major cultural and sporting events and reduced working hours across the country, which is one of the worst hit after China. "Schools and universities will be closed until the end" of the current Iranian year, health minister Saeed Namaki said in a televised press conference.

According to Jahanpour, Tehran province is the worst-hit with 1,352 confirmed cases, followed by Qom with 386, Gilan with 333 and Esfahan with 238.

Meanwhile, the death toll from novel coronavirus rose to 11 in United States on Wednesday after new cases were reported around New York City and Los Angeles.

The first California death from the virus was an elderly person in Placer County, near Sacramento, health officials said. The person had underlying health problems and likely had been exposed on a cruise ship voyage between San Francisco and Mexico last month.

It was the first coronavirus fatality in the United States outside of Washington state, where 10 people have died in a cluster of at least 39 infections that have emerged through community transmission of the virus in two Seattle-area counties.

Hours after the person’s death was announced, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency in response to the coronavirus, which he said has resulted in 53 cases across the nation’s most populous state.

At least 18 cases, including six deaths, were connected to a long-term nursing facility for the elderly, called LifeCare Center of Kirkland, in a Seattle suburb.

Moreover, the first case of coronavirus in New Jersey was discovered in Bergen County, New Jersey, US media reported. Amid the coronavirus scare in the world, US President Donald Trump has said that it has been weeks since he touched his face as a precaution against the coronavirus epidemic and that it was something that he misses, touching off reactions from twitterati.

The US President Trump revealed his secret while addressing a White House meeting with airline executives and administration officials on Wednesday on measures taken to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus, reported foreign media.

In a humorous moment, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, Deborah Birx talks about precautions amid COVID-19 and reminded "the common sense of washing your hands, not touching your face."

Responding to him, Trump declared: "I haven't touched my face in weeks, in weeks! I miss it!" Meanwhile, the first coronavirus death in Britain has been confirmed, medical authorities said on Thursday. "The patient, who was being treated at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, was an older patient who had underlying health conditions," England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said in a statement.

"We believe they contracted the virus in the UK and contact tracing is already underway," he added, reported foreign media. The hospital, in Reading, west of London, also issued a statement. "The patient has previously been in and out of hospital for non-coronavirus reasons, but on this occasion was admitted and last night tested positive for coronavirus," it said.

Meanwhile, Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) MP Hanuman Beniwal, whose party is part of the BJP-led ruling NDA government at the Centre, on Thursday sparked a row by saying that Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul and daughter Priyanka must get tested for coronavirus as they have just returned from Italy and may end up spreading it.

“Italy is badly affected with coronavirus so I requested the government that Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi be tested for coronavirus since they have recently come back from Italy,” the RLP MP said. "I urged the government in the Lok Sabha to screen the Gandhi family for coronavirus. There should be a probe to find out if the spread of the virus originated from Sonia Gandhi`s home," he added.

The RLP leader triggered a storm in the Lok Sabha after which Congress leaders slammed him and shouted slogans and threw papers on the table of the Speaker. The Lok Sabha speaker did not allow his remark in the House. Being asked if his statement will be expunged from records, he said, "I do not care if my remarks get expunged. I am used to it. However, I am worried about Sonia`s health. They all should get their medical check-up done."

Taking a jibe at Rahul Gandhi over his posts on social media about coronavirus, he said, "Rahul not coming out from his house but expressing his concern by sharing posts on it." As Congress leaders demanded an apology from him for his statement, he said, "I will not seek an apology for his remark in this birth."

Later, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said, “It is shameful that PM Modi Ji is using Hanuman Beniwal who has lost his mental balance, to use such low level and shameful words for Sonia Ji and Rahul Ji. We strongly condemn such irresponsible and imbecile comments.”

On Wednesday, Beniwal targeted Rahul Gandhi over his visit to violence-hit northeast Delhi and asked the leader if he underwent screening after coming from Italy.