The new coronavirus — COVID-19 — was first confirmed on December 31 in Wuhan, China. The World Health Organisation classified COVID-19 as pandemic on March 11. Countries all over the world have taken extraordinary measures to contain the spread of the virus and deal with infected people. Some of these measures include travel bans, urging citizens to self-isolate and closing educational institutions.
Here, Dawn.com takes a look at what Pakistan — which reported its first case on Feb 26 — has done to contain the spread of the virus.
Pre-screening at airports
- Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) announces in January that all passengers on its flights from Beijing will be pre-screened.
- Civil Aviation Authority says every passenger from China will go through health counters in Islamabad.
- SAPM Mirza says evacuation of Pakistanis from China is against the larger interest of the country after four students in Wuhan are confirmed to have coronavirus.
- Fumigation is declared must for pre-loved items coming from China.
- Airlines told to get health declaration from passengers coming to Pakistan in the last week of February.
Screening of Chinese citizens in the country
Punjab government in January sends a team of doctors to screen Chinese nationals.
- PIA suspends flights to Beijing until Feb 2; it later extends the suspension till March 15.
- Pakistanis stranded in virus-hit China start to return as flight operations resume.
- Flight operations to Iran are suspended from midnight of Feb 27.
- PIA suspends flight operation to Qatar and Italy in March.
- Government announces international flights will only operate from Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad on March 13.
Travel and movement restrictions
- Balochistan government restricts Pakistanis from going to Iran until the coronavirus is over, as the number of cases in the neighbouring country rises to 8 at the end of February.
- Pakistan also temporarily closes its border at all five entry points — Taftan, Gwadar, Turbat, Panjgur and Washuk — along the border with Iran.
- Trade activities between Pakistan and Iran resume after a 13-day suspension on March 8.
- The government announces closure of borders with Iran and Afghanistan for two weeks.
- The federal government bans large public gatherings including weddings and conferences; orders closure of cinemas. Provinces follow suit with Sindh closing shrines, swimming pools and gyms etc for three weeks.
- Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza says in January that Pakistan will send samples to the US, China and the Netherlands for testing because it does not have testing facilities yet.
- In February, SAPM Mirza says Pakistan is equipped to test for coronavirus after importing 1,000 kits from China.
- Sindh cabinet approves Rs100 million to procure 5,000 coronavirus testing kits.
- On March 12, the Prime Minister's Office says nearly 900,000 travellers have been screened and 471 people have been tested for the coronavirus so far.
- At the beginning of February, the premier’s aide on health says that Pakistani citizens stranded in China will not be allowed to return until they have been quarantined for 14 days.
- Movement of Chinese working on the Saindak copper and gold project is restricted.
- Pilgrims who came from Iran are quarantined at the border after the screening process in Taftan.
- More than 800 people who have recently returned to Sindh after travelling to Iran have been quarantined in their homes as of March 3.
- Federal government decides mild to moderate patients of the virus will be isolated in homes and critical patients will be admitted to hospitals.
- Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho says necessary arrangements for developing quarantine facility outside the immigration section in 25 cubicles at Karachi airport have been made.
- Sindh's chief minister orders establishing of quarantine centres in every district of the province on March 14.
Shutting down institutions
- Sindh government announces that educational institutions in the province will be shut for two days as the first two cases of coronavirus are confirmed and later extends them to March 15, eventually deciding to keep schools closed till May 31.
- Balochistan announces closure of schools until March 31.
- Khyber Pakhtunkhwa cabinet decides on March 13 to close all educational institutions for 15 days.
- Gilgit-Baltistan government announces closure of schools until March 7, extends it till March 13 and eventually until March 31.
- Federal government announces closure of schools across the country until April 5.
Pakistan Super League
The Pakistan Cricket Board gives permission to all international players participating in the tournament to leave over coronavirus fears. All Pakistan Super League matches will now be played in the absence of spectators.
Getting hospitals ready
- Provincial governments, private medical institutes and the World Health Organisation try to build stocks of personal protective equipment as its shortage hampers efforts to deal with coronavirus.
- Mirza claims that the National Action Plan against the virus is being implemented.
- The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan allows export of respiratory masks and other personal protection equipment.
- The federal government decides to equip Balochistan with all machinery and resources in order to carry out screening of pilgrims returning from Iran.
- Hospitals in Sindh put on alert over the deadly coronavirus, according to the health minister.
- Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre constitutes an 18-member Rapid Response Team to prepare against the novel coronavirus.
- Dow University of Health Sciences in Karachi becomes the second facility in Pakistan to be able to detect coronavirus.
- Sindh government decides to form a task force on coronavirus, a day after Pakistan confirms its first two cases.
- The Sindh administration asks families who have recently visited Iran to not send their children to school for 14 days.
- The government orders all hospitals to share the record of all patients showing symptoms of pneumonia so that further medical investigations can be done to contain coronavirus.
- Sindh establishes 12 isolation centres across the province.
- A high dependency unit (HDU) is established at three government-run hospitals in Rawalpindi, later HDUs are established in all districts of Punjab.
- A 50-bed coronavirus quarantine is set up at Rawalpindi Institute of Urology.
- Punjab government releases Rs226m to check coronavirus spread.
- The government sets up a technical team and trains 10,000 people to deal with the virus.
- Punjab cabinet declares medical emergency across the province on March 12.
- Hospitals in Battagram and Shangla set up coronavirus isolation wards.
- Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government declares emergency for 30 days which it later extends for three months.
- Around 100 private hospitals of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reserve a total of 387 beds for suspected coronavirus cases.
- Rapid response units are established in all the districts of KP. At least 920 health workers are given necessary training apart from protective equipment; surveillance centres are set up.
- A 12-hour helpline is launched to provide help and information to citizens from medical professionals regarding coronavirus.
- The chief minister launches a provincial task force directly under his chairmanship to deal with the coronavirus.
- Quetta health authorities establish an isolation ward in Fatima Jinnah Chest and General Hospital.
- The Balochistan government imposes emergency in all bordering districts with Iran with immediate effect.
- Balochistan government releases Rs200m to combat the coronavirus.
The provincial government declares a health emergency on March 12.
Azad Jammu and Kashmir
AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider announces health emergency on March 14.
- The National Security Committee decides to start a media campaign to brief the public about coronavirus prevention measures and to combat misinformation.
- It also decides to form a National Coordination Committee for COVID-19.
What other countries are doing
Travel bans and flight suspensions
Several countries including the United States, Saudi Arabia, India and Kuwait have restricted movement and banned citizens from countries with a large number of cases from entering.
Italy has put almost a quarter of its citizens under lockdown to stop the spread of the virus, Saudi Arabia has sealed off its Qatif region while other countries such as New Zealand have asked all citizens returning from abroad to self-isolate.
Countries all around the world have ramped up testing for the coronavirus with South Korea conducting nearly 20,000 tests a day and the United Kingdom increasing its capacity from 1,000 to 10,000 tests a day. Meanwhile, the US has been criticised for not conducting more tests.
Major international sports events and conferences have been cancelled or postponed to stop the spread of COVID-19 including Serie A football games in Italy, the Premier League in England, the Champions League in Europe, all table tennis tournaments, and the remainder of the Olympic torch relay.
Closing educational institutions
Italy, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Ireland and France among other countries have closed educational institutions.
Closing cultural sites
Cultural sites and popular tourist attractions have started closing such as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre museum in France, the Colosseum, Pompeii and the Uffizi Galleries in Italy, all museums and ruins in Greece, Disneyland in the US while theatres and cinemas have been closed in Germany.
Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong especially have been commended for their proactive response to the coronavirus. Taiwan, in particular, started screening arrivals from Wuhan before the first contact case was confirmed. All three places were among the first ones to enforce travel restrictions and prepare their health systems to deal with the new coronavirus.
Header Photo: A security guard tells students that their school is closed by authorities to control the possible spread of coronavirus in Lahore on March 14, 2020. — AP