GUJRAT: Around 4,000 expatriates belonging to Gujrat, Gujranwala, Mandi Bahauddin and Jhelum districts have so far returned to their native areas since March 1 and, alarmingly, most of them have come from Italy, Spain and Iran --the countries badly affected by coronavirus

The local administration of these districts have sprung into action to keep them at least in house quarantine or shift them to mass level quarantine centres as some of them may be the carriers of this pandemic.

The Gujrat administration formed on Sunday 23 committees at the police station level which will launch a drive to trace the expatriates. District officer health Dr Zakir Ali Rana is the focal person of these committees whereas the respective assistant commissioners of all three tehsils and district head of special branch will assist the committees.

According to official figures, 4,000 returned to Gujrat, Gujranwala, Jhelum and Mandi Bahauddin since March 1

Each police station level committee will be headed by the assistant education officer while revenue officer and station house officer will be their members.

These committees will report the presence of the expatriates as well as the suspected cases of coronavirus in their areas after which the suspected patients will be quarantined.

At least 1000 expatriates have so far arrived in Gujrat, around 700 in Gujranwala, 1000 in Jhelum and 1200 in Mandi Bahauddin districts. Their arrival has been confirmed by local authorities from a data shared by the NDMA, FIA and other agencies at the airports.

Out of 10 confirmed cases of coronavirus in these districts till Sunday (yesterday), nine are expatriates.

They include four in Gujranwala (two from Saudi Arabia and one from Italy), three in Gujrat (from Spain) and as many in Jhelum (from the United Kingdom).

The respective administration are conducting screening of these expatriates at their houses after locating some of them and they are being advised to remain in house quarantine whereas contacts of confirmed cases are being located and shifted to quarantine centres.

Gujrat Deputy Commissioner Dr Khurram Shahzad said around 15 new suspected cases had arrived at the Aziz Bhatti Shaheed Teaching Hospital and their tests would be conducted. He said some 60 suspected cases had so far tested negative.

Gujranwala Deputy Commissioner Sohail Ashraf told Dawn by phone that shifting these expats to mass quarantine might cause more trouble and after consistent screening of these people, they were being advised to remain in house quarantine.

Similarly, Jhelum DC Saif Nawar Jappa said that screening of at least 900 expats had so far been done in Jhelum while around 150 people were being traced for screening.

He said on Sunday at least a dozen people who were all contacts of the confirmed cases had been quarantined and their samples were sent for tests.

In Mandi Bahauddin district, around 1200 expats have so far arrived and local authorities have consistently been tracing and monitoring them.

Meanwhile, in Gujrat the commercial markets, shopping plazas and restaurants mainly remained closed as per the government policy.

Gujrat Assistant Commissioner Muhammad Jameel lodged cases against some people who offered resistance in closing their shops and businesses along Jalalpur Jattan Road near Kale Chak.

Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2020