Balochistan’s challenge

March 22, 2020

The lack of transparency about the coronavirus cases in the province has contributed to confusion

Balochistan has been at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak as a result of the quarantine crisis at Taftan. More than 4,500 pilgrims coming from Iran were initially quarantined at Taftan. More than 100 of them have tested positive.

The Balochistan government has established a COVID 19 Operations Cell at the Directorate General of Health Services in Balochistan. This cell coordinates the activities related to preventing the outbreak of the virus.

The government has dedicated two hospitals in Quetta for dealing with coronavirus cases – the Fatima Jinnah Chest Hospital and the Shaikh Zayed Hospital. The Fatima Jinnah Chest Hospital is serving as the only testing point for coronavirus in Quetta. According to an official of the Health Department, 32 testing kits and only 5 ventilators are available at this hospital. The government of Balochistan has asked the federal government for more testing kits and ventilators to deal with the patients. There is one isolation ward in this hospital, where the first coronavirus patient of Balochistan, a 12-year-old child, is being treated.

The Shaikh Zayed hospital has over a dozen isolation rooms. Most of the cases of coronavirus are being treated here. Some of the doctors here refused isolation ward duties over a lack of adequate measures for their safety. The government took disciplinary action against some of these doctors. It also improved the safety provisions. The provincial government has also released Rs 200 million for emergency procurements to deal with the situation.

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By noon of March 18, there were more than 2,800 people quarantined at Taftan. Following sharp criticism of ineffective quarantine arrangements, the Balochistan government has decided to wind up the Taftan facility. All those quarantined here are now being sent to their respective provinces.

Chief Minister Jam Kamal has expressed disappointment at the criticism faced by his government. In a video message shared on social media, he said that had the Balochistan government not quarantined more than 4,000 pilgrims at Taftan for two weeks, the virus would have spread much more rapidly across the country. More than 500 people, belonging to Quetta, have been put in quarantine there after they were released from Taftan. Most of these people have been protesting against poor facilities at their quarantine camp. They are demanding that the government let them go. Despite the mounting pressure, the government has decided to test each of those quarantined.

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The lack of transparency in sharing information about the coronavirus cases in the province has contributed to confusion. The results of all coronavirus tests are first sent to the National Institute of Health Islamabad, which announces the results and updates the tallies. There is no other official channel available to get confirmed reports.


The writer is a freelance journalist and columnist based in Quetta. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @iAdnanAamir.

Balochistan’s challenge in tackling coronavirus