QUETTA / ISLAMABAD: The Balochistan government has imposed emergency in all bordering districts with Iran with immediate effect after the neighbouring country reported deaths caused by the new coronavirus.
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday contacted Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Alyani and discussed options to stop the virus from entering the country. He told the chief minister to take all protective measures in the province along the porous border with Iran.
Mr Alyani said that he was supervising all safety measures adopted by the provincial government.
Official sources said the provincial health department had established an emergency centre and a control room at the bordering town of Taftan.
“Two doctors were already working at the control room at Taftan,” said an official of the health department, adding that in view of reports about two deaths in Iran due to coronavirus, a team of seven doctors equipped with thermal guns had been deployed at Taftan to carry out screening of pilgrims and other people crossing into Pakistan from Iran.
Imran discusses situation with CM Alyani
“The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) and health department are establishing a 100-bed tent hospital at Taftan to provide medical treatment to the suspected passengers,” he said.
Sources said that special teams of the National Institute of Health (NIH) were scheduled to arrive in Balochistan to give training to the health staff and the doctors regarding safety precautions.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza also reached out to the Balochistan chief minister and assured all help and cooperation with the provincial government.
The provincial health department has issued directives for the pilgrims returning from Iran to carry out their medical check-up in nearby hospitals, if suffering from cough and temperature.
The sources said doctors would also be sent to other bordering districts of Balochistan with Iran, including Gwadar, Turbat, Panjgur and Mashkeel.
NIH Executive Director Maj Gen Dr Aamer Ikram told Dawn that all stakeholders had attended a meeting in Islamabad to discuss the issue with reference to the deaths in Iran due to coronavirus.
“Within no time four persons have died in Qom [located 140km to the south of Tehran] and virus has reached there. We need to be on toes as the virus can enter Pakistan due to porous border,” he said.
“Moreover, it is very sensitive issue, due to religious sensitivity as a large number of pilgrims go to Iran. We cannot seal the border as it will create a huge problem for us. So it has been decided to send a team of experts on Monday to Balochistan to further train the staff at points of entry,” he said.
Replying to a question, he said over 90 samples of suspected patients had been received at NIH but not a single was reported positive. “We can surely say that Pakistan is free from NCV,” Dr Ikram declared.
Meanwhile, parents and relatives of Pakistanis stranded in China held a news conference in Islamabad and said their children would die out of fear if not due to the virus. They urged the government to bring back Pakistanis without any delay. They also appealed to the Chief Justice of Pakistan and the army chief to play their role in bringing back Pakistanis from China.
They alleged that the Ministry of National Health Services was deliberately delaying the issue, claiming that their kids in China did not even have drinking water.
Rubina Riaz, a relatives of a student in China, said the parents were ready to bring their children from China at their own expense and they only wanted permission from the government.
Published in Dawn, February 23rd, 2020