Government urges calm as coronavirus cases in Pakistan rise to 4

Updated 01 Mar 2020

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Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza addresses a press conference alongside government spokesperson Firdous Ashiq Awan on Saturday. — DawnNewsTV
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza addresses a press conference alongside government spokesperson Firdous Ashiq Awan on Saturday. — DawnNewsTV

The government on Saturday urged citizens to refrain from panicking and act responsibly as the total number of coronavirus cases in the country rose to four.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza confirmed during a press conference that the government had received news of two more people who have tested positive for the new coronavirus, COVID-19. He revealed that one of the cases is from Karachi while the other patient is from the federal areas.

The new cases come three days after Pakistan confirmed its first two coronavirus cases.

The SAPM said that the first two patients of the virus "are recovering and one of them will soon be discharged". He added that their clinical treatment has been satisfactory and according to the guidelines of the health ministry.

Mirza was speaking on the sidelines of a government meeting held to discuss the control and prevention of COVID-19 in the country. He said two themes were discussed during the meeting — scaling up efforts and increasing coordination.

"The coronavirus has been reported in 57 countries of the world. Pakistan was the 48th country to report cases of coronavirus, even though our neighbouring countries had already reported cases.

"We took effective measures ... we established SOPs at our airports," he added.

Mirza said that a review of the national action plan is necessary. "We discussed how to reinforce our points of entry, our airports and land routes so that any person returning from another country who has symptoms of coronavirus will be screened right there and will be sent to isolation rooms in hospitals," he added.

Referring to the temporary reopening of the Pakistan-Iran border at Taftan, he said: "We have a plan at Taftan for returning pilgrims. I have visited it myself ... this was a very effective visit because we cooperated with the Iranian government to make decisions [and] we have started receiving our pilgrims from there."

He added that the Pakistani government's review of the situation is ongoing and air travel restrictions between the two countries will be lifted when "we feel it is alright".

'National awareness plan' to be made

Mirza also said that an extensive review has been conducted to ascertain whether the country has enough hospitals and people to deal with a situation if many people start testing positive for coronavirus.

"We have shared the numbers with all provincial governments of the people needed to be deputed at the borders, at crossing points.

"We will bridge the deficiency of human resources in 2-3 days. We also decided to dedicate certain hospitals to coronavirus so we can keep patients and suspected patients in isolation there."

A three-member advisory committee has also been formed comprising representatives from the health ministry, the information ministry and the Inter-services Public Relations, the military's media wing, that will address people's questions about the virus and inform them of measures to protect themselves from the infection. The body will come up with a national awareness plan for the people, he added.

"We are bringing the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) on board and asked them to build stockpiles [of protective gear] and import if needed so that we can keep a check on prices. Local production is also being started in this regard."

The SAPM added that "not everybody has to wear a mask ... and when needed they should use the correct mask."

He said an artificial demand had been created for masks. "If people understand when they need to wear the mask, that will have an effect on its demand and supply.

"If two ways are adopted, it (coronavirus) can be controlled very effectively. The first is responsibility; if you know a person who has recently returned from a country that has reported cases of coronavirus and they have symptoms, I urge you to call 1166." He also advised people not to go to crowded places.

"Precautions and responsibility are needed more than panic," he concluded.