First death from local virus transmission in Pakistan

Updated 25 Mar 2020

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Lockdown imposed in Balochistan for 15 days; China donates medical supplies. — Taimur Jhangra's Twitter
Lockdown imposed in Balochistan for 15 days; China donates medical supplies. — Taimur Jhangra's Twitter

• Lockdown imposed in Balochistan for 15 days
• 10 more patients recover in Sindh
• China donates medical supplies

ISLAMABAD: With the first death caused by local transmission of novel coronavirus in Pakistan on Tuesday, countrywide tally of fatalities has risen to seven and the Balochistan government has imposed a lockdown across the province for 15 days.

The federal government has decided to accept donations and designated the National Disaster Mana­gement Authority (NDMA) to use donated funds to combat the disease.

With the first death of a coronavirus victim in Lahore, Punjab witnessed a slight decline in confirmed cases across the province on Tuesday.

According to official figures, only 19 more patients tested positive for the virus all over the province, including seven in Lahore alone, on Tuesday.

On Monday, 24 new confirmed cases were reported in Punjab, including 18 in Lahore, showing a decline as compared to the cases reported on Sunday.

A resident of Sheikhupura, the first patient who died of Covid-19 in Punjab, had no international travel history which means he had been infected locally, making it the first death from local transmission of the virus in Pakistan.

Punjab Health Minister Prof Dr Yasmin Rashid and the spokesperson for the health department confirmed that the 57-year-old patient died at Mayo Hospital in Lahore early on Tuesday morning.

“The patient had visited Azad Kashmir following the death of his relative and most probably he was infected when he attended funeral prayers there,” Chief Executive of the Mayo Hospital Prof Dr Asad Aslam Khan said.

Talking to Dawn, he said the patient was brought to the emergency ward of the Mayo Hospital late on Monday in a serious condition. “The doctors on duty immediately sent his samples to the lab for confirmation of the virus. As his condition deteriorated, he was immediately shifted to the high dependency unit and put on a ventilator. Despite all efforts, he died suddenly, just like sudden deaths of the Covid-19 patients occurring in Spain and Italy.”

Prof Asad said the virus caused rapid spread of infection in the patient’s body and then led to sudden cardiac arrest. The reports obtained on Tuesday morning showed the deceased had been infected with the virus, he said.

Lockdown in Balochistan

The Balochistan government after getting help of Pakistan Army on Tuesday imposed a lockdown across the province for 15 days to restrict the movement of the people.

The provincial home and tribal affairs department issued a notification about the decision the government had taken on Monday night after observing that people were not confining themselves to their houses in Quetta though a lockdown had been imposed in the city four days ago.

“Complete lockdown started at noon on March 24 and will continue till April 7 in entire Balochistan,” the notification said.

Police and other law enforcement agencies deployed in the provincial capital started taking action against the people and businessmen who were found violating lockdown.

Local administration along with police raided different areas and sealed 150 shops, which were found open despite lockdown.

Police also arrested 50 people from different areas of Quetta who were found outside of their homes without any justification. “Local administration has sealed over 300 shops, show rooms and hotels in the last two days,” a senior official of the district administration said.

Most of the Quetta city wore a deserted look as all shopping centres, markets, shops, restaurants and other business establishments remained closed.

However, medical stores, departmental stores, utility stores, bakeries and bread shops remained open as they have been allowed to continue their business.

Inter-provincial and inter-city transport also remained suspended and private vehicles remained off the road.

However, in some areas private vehicles and rickshaws were seen moving on the roads. Law enforcement agencies continued patrolling in and around Quetta to enforce lockdown.

The provincial capital remained cut off with the three provinces and the federal capital through air as PIA and private airlines have suspended their flights for Quetta from Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.

Meanwhile, the Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan has once again appealed to the people to cooperate with the government in fighting the deadly virus and asked them to stay in their homes.

Patients’ data

The data of the Ministry of National Health Services shows that 78 per cent patients infected with the deadly virus have travelled to Iran. Gender-based data shows that 63pc of the patients are male and 37pc female.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Zafar Mirza told a news conference that 918 cases had been confirmed in Pakistan with seven deaths.

“As many as 407 cases have been reported from Sindh, 267 from Punjab, 110 from Balochistan, 80 from Gilgit Baltistan, 38 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 15 from Islamabad and one case has been reported from Azad Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

The SAPM said that a number of individuals, from within the country and abroad, had contacted him and offered donations and personal protective equipment.

“We have decided to designate one focal person and e-mail address to collect donations. That amount will be received by the NDMA and used wherever it will be required,” he said.

Dr Mirza said in a Tweet: “In #COVID19 emergency. A whole-of-the-Govt approach is being employed. Any one want to donate to help GoP with the response please contact: Maj Sajjad Kiani +92 334 5888555 or + 92 3432851914 or +92 51 9201056 advisor@ndma.gov.pk.”

While sharing international numbers, he said the virus had reached all 195 countries recognised by the United Nations, around 400,000 people had been infected and over 17,000 deaths reported around the world.

“However good news is that more than 100,000 patients have recovered by defeating the virus,” he said.

Meanwhile, another 10 confirmed patients recovered in Sindh on Tuesday, a senior official said.

“Another 10 patients of #COVID19 in #Sindh have recovered and their tests have come negative. Total number of patients who have recovered in Sindh are now 14. Alhamdolillah,” tweeted Barrister Murtaza Wahab, advisor to the Sindh chief minister.

“Though the lockdown has still not been 100% successful, one can see that less number of people have tested positive despite an increase in total tests. Imagine the result if all us pledge to stay home & keep our near & dear ones home.”

China donates medical supplies

China is going to donate medical supplies to the Gilgit Baltistan government to help it contain coronavirus outbreak in the region.

The Chinese embassy has asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to temporarily open Pakistan-China border at Khunjerab pass on March 27 to enable China to provide medical supplies to the GB government.

According a letter issued by Chinese embassy in Pakistan, responding to the letter from GB Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman to the governor of Xinjiang province of China, Xinjiang would donate a batch of medical material to the GB government, including 200, 000 ordinary face masks, 2,000 N-95 face masks, five ventilators, 2,000 testing kits and as many protective gears.

The materials were ready to be delivered to GB through Khunjerab pass, it said. Therefore it is requested to temporarily open Khunjerab pass on March 27.

Subsequently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote a letter to the interior ministry and the GB home secretary to consider the request of the Chinese embassy for temporarily opening Khunjerab pass on March 27 for receiving the donated equipment.

Asif Chaudhry from Lahore, Saleem Shahid from Quetta and Jamil Nagri from Gilgit also contributed to this report.

Published in Dawn, March 25th, 2020