Pakistan prepares to fight back as two coronavirus cases emerge in country

A Pakistani journalist wearing a protective facemask uses his mobile phone outside the Aga Khan University Hospital where a patient of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus has been admitted in Karachi on February 26, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 15 March 2020

Pakistan prepares to fight back as two coronavirus cases emerge in country

  • Both infected patients recently returned from Iran where they contracted the illness
  • Authorities have identified 1,500 people who returned from Iran in the last two week, says Sindh chief minister

KARACHI: Two coronavirus infections have been reported in Pakistan, both in persons who recently arrived from Iran, with one of them confirmed to be a resident of Karachi in Sindh province.

Addressing a news conference on Thursday, Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah revealed that about 1,500 people who returned from Iran in the past two weeks have been identified by the authorities.
“The group of 28 that traveled with the affected patients has also been identified and will be quarantined,” Shah said.

He added that the provincial administration was hoping to be in control of the situation in the next 48 hours.
“Screening at airports is not satisfactory. I would request the federal government to do proper screening and make the process more effective,” the chief minister said.

Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani announced on Wednesday night that schools in the province would remain closed on Thursday and Friday.

In Balochistan, which borders Iran, all education institutes have been temporarily closed until March 15 “as a precaution to protect children from coronavirus,” the province’s education directorate announced in a circular on Wednesday.

On Wednesday night, Minister of State for Health Zafar Mirza said that a case had been “reported in Sindh, whereas the second person tested positive in federal areas.”
The persons traveled to Iran in the past 14 days, Mirza said, adding that both were in stable condition.
The person in Sindh has been identified as a 22-year-old resident of Karachi and is already in quarantine.
The man “and other members of his family have been quarantined at a private hospital,” Meeran Yousuf, a spokesperson of the Sindh Health Department, told Arab News, adding that the patient arrived in Karachi on a flight from Mashhad on Feb. 20.
Meanwhile, isolation wards have been established at Karachi hospitals, Sindh Information Minister Nasir Hussain Shah told reporters.

Iran has the highest coronavirus toll outside of China, as the outbreak is spreading rapidly across the country.
Iranian Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said on Wednesday that 19 people had died from the illness, with 139 confirmed cases in the country. The World Health Organization says the virus has infected more than 80,000 people around the world, causing over 2,700 deaths, mainly in China.
Experts are concerned that Iran may be under-reporting cases and deaths.

Pakistanis in Dubai rally support for compatriots affected by virus layoffs

Updated 27 March 2020

Pakistanis in Dubai rally support for compatriots affected by virus layoffs

  • Scores of Pakistani workers in UAE are left without means to earn a living
  • Many Pakistanis remain stranded in the UAE following the suspension of international flights

DUBAI: The Pakistani community in Dubai is rallying to support for fellow nationals in the United Arab Emirates who have been affected by the economic slowdown resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
The suspension of international flights last week left many Pakistanis stranded in the UAE, while shutdowns of businesses see scores of Pakistani workers without means to earn a living, as they have been laid off by their companies.
Sharjah-based teacher Ayesha Sohail, who runs an online group for women, UAE Fusion Socialites, said many of its 19,400 members have been sending her messages asking for help.
“Many of them are families whose breadwinners have been laid off by companies that have started downsizing. Others need help because they are here on visit visas and have been stranded,” she told Arab News.
Sohail shared the appeals for help with other members of the group who started to gather packages of food and other staples. Many others have offered to give free lodging for the stranded nationals. Since cash donations by individuals are banned in the UAE, they are not encouraged in the group.
“Since we are in isolation, we do not encourage people to come to pick up the packets. Instead, me or my husband drop the packets off at places where they can be easily accessed,” said the Karachi native who has been living in the UAE for the past 27 years. Twenty Pakistani families have already received support from the group's members.
Sohail is also offering counseling for women who need it. “These are depressing times and many people are turning to social media for guidance. Sometimes even that is not enough, so we come up with online games to keep everyone busy.”
Rizwan Fancy, director of community welfare at Pakistan Association in Dubai, said at this point the association could not run any campaigns to raise funds. “We are offering Dh300-worth vouchers to be used to buy essential items for those in need on a case-to-case basis,” he said.
They are also trying to support Pakistani children whose UAE schools have shifted to online learning.
“Since schools are now shut and children have to carry on learning from homes, it is important for them to have laptops to be connected, but unfortunately not everyone has them. So we are looking at cases individually and trying our best to provide them with whatever is possible,” he said. Until now, 10 laptops have been donated.
The Consulate General of Pakistan, with the help of community members, is also distributing food rations to those in need.
In a statement, the consulate said that those who want to help or know of any nationals who require assistance can contact the mission on WhatsApp 00971-56-3962911 or email: [email protected]