More than 800 people who have recently returned home in Sindh after travelling to Iran have been quarantined in their homes as part of measures to contain coronavirus in the province, a government official confirmed on Tuesday.
Meeran Yousuf, media coordinator to the health and population welfare minister, said the families quarantined in their homes in various parts of Sindh had returned from Iran but did not exhibit symptoms of COVID-19.
She said these residents will remain in home quarantine for the recommended isolation period of 14 days from their respective date of arrival in the province.
Meanwhile, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, who was chairing a meeting of the task force on coronavirus, was informed on Tuesday that a total of 2,534 pilgrims had left for Iran via Karachi airport and the Taftan border. Of these, 764 people, who returned to their homes in Sindh during the last 14 days but did not show any symptoms, were kept in quarantine.
"Presently, 557 have been quarantined at their homes while 1,213 are yet to be traced whether they have returned or [are] still in Iran or at Taftan," the chief minister's office said in a statement.
When asked how the quarantine is being implemented, Yousuf told Dawn that a police officer performs duty outside each such home during the day and is replaced by another during the night to ensure nobody goes in or out.
For his part, Karachi police chief AIG Ghulam Nabi Memon denied any such move. "Only two police officers are deployed outside isolation ward of the civil hospital," he told Dawn.
A medical officer from the relevant union council also carries out random visits to these families to ensure the quarantine is being maintained, Yousuf added.
The spokesperson said every deputy commissioner has been assigned the duty and budget to ensure the provision of ration to each family in their district. Teams have been formed for this purpose at the DC level.
When approached by Dawn, however, the spokesperson for Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani denied knowledge of any such measures.
Chief Minister Shah was informed on Monday that hand-wash bottles, sanitisers and essential food commodities had been provided to the families who had been quarantined. They have also been provided medicines arranged through hospitals and philanthropists.
Yousuf revealed that the health department sent eight samples of suspected cases for lab test on Tuesday, out of which seven turned out to be negative. The result of the eighth sample is awaited.
The Sindh government had on Sunday decided to keep all educational institutions in the province closed until March 13 in view of the threat posed by coronavirus.
Two cases of COVID-19 have so far been detected in the province, while three other cases have emerged in other parts of the country.
Additional reporting by Imtiaz Ali.