GILGIT: Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman on Friday said that GB had the highest number of coronavirus patients in the country.
He said that out of a total of 633 suspected coronavirus patients, 91 had tested positive for the virus while results of 332 were awaited.
The chief minister pointed out that there was only one coronavirus testing centre in GB where only 15 patients could be tested in 24 hours.
He appealed to the army chief to help establish more coronavirus testing laboratories in GB. Mr Rehman said only nine ventilators were available in GB and urged the federal government to provide 200 ventilators.
A health department official told Dawn on condition of anonymity that there were many coronavirus patients in Nagar district, the hardest-hit area in Gilgit-Baltistan, but many could not be tested. Fifty samples were sent for testing from there and 34 of them were found to be positive.
More than 100 samples of suspected patients had been sent to Gilgit two weeks ago and their results were still awaited. “After getting the results we will able to trace their contacts for further tests,” he said.
The official said it was alarming that out of 34 samples in the district, 14 involved local transmission of the virus. The local hospitals have no testing or screening facilities to deal with such cases, he added.
Mudassir Hussain, a local resident, told Dawn that over 100 Zaireen arrived from Iran in February without screening. He was of the opinion that the people infected in Iran had spread the virus among the local population. He criticised the government for delaying testing of many locals.
A video clip of Zohair Ahmed, a locally infected patient from Nagar Khas, went viral on social media in which he said he was suffering from the disease and “unfortunately my four other family members have also been identified as coronavirus patients”. He advised the local people to stay home, get tested for coronavirus and take appropriate precautions.
With a population of 70,000, Nagar district is the hardest-hit district in the region. Out of 107 coronavirus cases in Gilgit-Baltistan, 34 have been detected in the district.
The district administration sealed two villages after emergence of new cases. Deputy Commissioner M. Shahrukh Cheema said it was alarming that out of 34 coronavirus patients, 14 were infected locally as they had no history of travelling abroad.
He said GB Scouts and police personnel had been deployed to limit people’s movement. “We are facing many issues in implementing precautionary measures because it is difficult to convince people to suspend religious and other gatherings,” he said.
Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2020