The presence of coronavirus in Pakistan was confirmed on Wednesday, with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza tweeting the reaffirmation. Dr Mirza also addressed a joint press conference with Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan late on Wednesday night confirming the two cases in Karachi in Islamabad.
Dr Mirza, while urging calm across the country, confirmed that the first patient along with his family had been quarantined along with his family. The 22-year-old man in question had returned to Pakistan from Iran on February 20, with all passengers from the flight set to be tracked and tested. 100 patients have been tested negative thus far.
The Iran Health Ministry on Sunday reported that the total number of coronavirus cases in the country had risen to 43, with 12 deaths. As a result, Pakistan has sealed the border with Iran and created screening camps in Balochistan, including a 100-bed hospital in Taftan.
Over 82,000 people in 30 countries have now been affected by coronavirus, with over 2,800 deaths being caused by it over the past month.
The novel coronavirus has spread throughout the world since the first cases were detected in central China in December. As things stand, coronavirus cases are emerging more frequently outside China than within the country, with the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring a public health emergency of international concern.
“There is still no need for the nation to panic. We are taking the needed security and precautionary measures. The media and the public should also take precautions and be more responsible, instead of panicking,” said Dr Mirza.
A government helpline has also been set up in Pakistan to address questions related to coronavirus. The masses have been urged to report on the helpline, if they or anyone they know shows symptoms of the virus or if they have recently travelled to any country impacted by the disease.
Meanwhile, the Sindh and Balochistan governments announced the closure of schools for two days and two weeks respectively.
According to health practitioners, coronavirus symptoms include fever, coughing, and difficulty in breathing. Anyone suspected to have come into contact with a patient has been urged to get themselves screened as soon as possible.
“There is reason to worry because the virus is spreading quickly across the world. The WHO and European guidelines underline the global concern. However, one has to be wise as well. The virus is spreading but the death count is low. Let’s learn from China, don’t spread any misinformation. Follow the government’s instructions. And most importantly, keep your hands clean, use sanitizers – washing hands regularly is one of the foremost precautions,” says health expert Dr Isma Naseem.
While the focus of the government remains on ensuring that there isn’t any widespread panic across the country, there remain question marks over the health facilities available in Pakistan to deal with an explosion of the virus.
Furthermore, for Pakistan there are economic concerns to consider, given that the outbreak has already had an impact on the $62 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor, with the construction work on its second phase already delayed.