• Number of confirmed cases now over 245
• PM visits quarantine centre near D.G. Khan
• Buzdar sets up Rs5bn fund
• FM pins hopes on China’s anti-virus expertise
ISLAMABAD / PESHAWAR: The inevitable finally happened on Wednesday when Pakistan joined the rapidly growing list of countries with coronavirus fatalities after Khyber Pakhtunkhwa recorded the country’s first two deaths from the pandemic.
The deceased were identified as Saadat Khan, 50, and Abdul Fatah, 36. Saadat Khan, who belonged to Mardan, had returned from Saudi Arabia after performing Umra while Abdul Fatah, who hailed from Hangu, had returned from Dubai.
KP Adviser on Information Ajmal Wazir confirmed the deaths.
Earlier in the day, as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) Control and Command Centre (CCC) announced that overall 247 cases have been confirmed across the country, Prime Minister Imran Khan paid a visit to a quarantine centre established at the agriculture campus of Ghazi University Dera Ghazi, adjacent to Dera Ghazi Khan airport.
The data issued by the CCC, being run with the support of Inter-Services Public Relations and Ministry of National Health Services, showed that 183 cases were confirmed in Sindh, 19 in KP, 15 in Balochistan, 13 in Gilgit-Baltistan, nine in Punjab, seven in Islamabad and one in AJK. However, with two patients of KP having passed away after the CCC had issued its data, the total number of cases ought to be at 245.
More than 800 pilgrims, who came from Taftan border on March 14, have been put in the quarantine centre at Ghazi University under medical supervision for 14 days.
PM Khan, accompanied by Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, spoke to the pilgrims and asked about their problems.
The premier also discussed the matter of upcoming arrival of another 2,400 pilgrims from Taftan, including the 1,400 who would be housed in Punjab.
According to a statement issued by PM Office, Mr Khan issued directive for sharing information regarding COVID-19 with the nation on a daily basis.
He said that those who worked on a daily wages, may come to the Panahgahs [shelter homes] where they would be accommodated after screening.
During a visit to Multan, Mr Buzdar said that 189 suspected coronavirus patients were admitted to various hospitals in the province and the number of confirmed patients of coronavirus in the province was 28.
Talking to media during his visit to a quarantine centre established at Industrial Estate, the chief minister said the government had started taking initiatives in the province against the spread of the virus from Jan 3.
“A ban has been imposed for going to tourist places including Murree while a decision has been taken to establish a fund of Rs5 billion in this regard and initially Rs236 million have been allocated. The health department will be provided an additional Rs1bn. The entry of people has been restricted in civil secretariat and government offices. It has also been decided that shopping halls and restaurants will be closed at 10pm across the province; however medical stores, general stores, factories and markets will remain open,” he said.
He said facilities in quarantine centers would be improved while assistance would also be provided to the Balochistan government to improve facilities at the quarantine centers in that province.
He said the provincial government would set up a field hospital of 1,000 beds and 41 high dependency units had been established while three hospital one each in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Muzaffargarh have been selected for the treatment of coronavirus patients.
“Health emergency has been declared in the province and Section 144 has been imposed to avert the gathering of the people,” he said.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who recently visited Beijing, said China would provide testing kits, ventilators and other medical equipment to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
While speaking to media, he said China would also provide cash in grants to Pakistan to be used to set up a state-of-the-art isolation centre to combat the infectious disease.
He said China would also share its medical expertise to combat the coronavirus.
Mr Qureshi said the government had learned from the Chinese experience and was trying to emulate it to counter the challenge in Pakistan.
While there are concerns about China’s economy when the pandemic was over, Mr Qureshi said the fundamentals were very strong and solid.
GB Chief Minister Hafeez-ur-Rehman told a press conference in Gilgit that all domestic tourists had been barred to enter GB for three weeks while international tourists will be allowed after medical certification.
Home Secretary Muhammad Ali Randhawa denied reports that one person had died from coronavirus in the region.
Tariq Birmani from Dera Ghazi Khan, Shakeel Ahmed from Multan, Jamil Nagri from Gilgit and Tariq Naqash from Muzaffarabad also contributed to this story.
Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2020