Pakistan ready to deal with more pilgrims returning from virus-hit Iran

In this file photo, a health personnel checks the body temperature of a pilgrim returning from Iran via the Pakistan-Iran border town of Taftan on Feb. 29, 2020. (REUTERS)
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Updated 15 March 2020

Pakistan ready to deal with more pilgrims returning from virus-hit Iran

  • About 2,200 people have already been quarantined near the Taftan border
  • Pakistan has confirmed five coronavirus cases, and the WHO has praised its handling of the problem

KARACHI: Authorities in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province said on Wednesday they were ready to screen and quarantine several thousand pilgrims coming from Iran, adding that 2,200 people, who previously arrived from the neighboring state, had already been kept in isolation units at the Taftan border.
Pakistan on Tuesday confirmed its fifth case of coronavirus.
All of the infected individuals have recently returned from Iran that has reported the highest number of coronavirus deaths outside China.
“We now have 5th confirmed case of COVID19 in federal areas,” Zafar Mirza, the country’s health minister, said in a tweet and added that the patient was stable and being managed well.
“We have made all necessary arrangements, with teams of qualified doctors present at the Taftan border,” Liaquat Shahwani, spokesperson of the Balochistan government, told Arab News, adding that the province was also setting up a quarantine center in its capital, Quetta, since it would not be possible to keep the growing number of pilgrims returning from Iran at the Taftan border in the coming days.
Asked about the viral video wherein the pilgrims were apparently protesting the lack of facilities, Shahwani said they were getting all the necessary facilities but did not want to stay. “We cannot allow them to leave the quarantine facility before the completion of the required isolation period,” he clarified.
Speaking to Arab News, Najibullah Qambrani, a senior official at the Taftan border, said some 2,200 people had been quarantined by Tuesday evening. “We are expecting more pilgrims in the next few days,” he said, adding the pilgrims would be allowed to leave once their quarantine period was over.
“We will also count the period they have spent at the quarantine facilities in Iran,” the official said.
On Wednesday morning, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said in a handout that it had sent 600 tents, 1,200 tarpaulins and 3,500 blankets to the provincial disaster management authority. “These items have been provided at the quarantine centers at Chaman and Taftan borders,” the statement read.
The World Health Organization has recently expressed its satisfaction over the way the Pakistan government has handled the coronavirus epidemic, state-owned news agency, the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP), reported on Sunday.
Since the recent outbreak in its western neighborhood, Pakistan has sealed its borders with Iran and Afghanistan and stepped up surveillance at all entry points and airports. A ‘National Action Plan’ to contain the spread of the virus was unveiled at a press conference on Saturday, and the government of southern Sindh province announced it would be closing all schools until March 13.
“I am impressed by the swift and diligent way the government has handled the crisis so far, and WHO is committed to supporting them every step of the way,” APP quoted Dr. Palitha Mahipala, the international health organization’s representative in Pakistan, as saying.
The WHO has upped the status of the current epidemic to its highest level, stopping just short of declaring the outbreak a pandemic. The disease has so far claimed 3,000 lives and infected roughly 87,000 people in 64 countries.


Two more lawmakers with virus die in Pakistan as new cases spike

Updated 03 June 2020

Two more lawmakers with virus die in Pakistan as new cases spike

  • Critics accuse government of easing restrictions when stricter lockdown was needed 
  • Pakistan has recorded a total of 76,512 confirmed cases and 1,688 deaths since February

KARACHI:  Two Pakistani lawmakers have died after testing positive for the coronavirus amid a spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths.
Officials said Tuesday that Munir Khan Orakzai, a lawmaker in the lower house of parliament, died in northwest Pakistan. They said a minister in the southern Sindh province, Ghulam Murtaza Baloch, died at a hospital in the port city of Karachi.
Their deaths came weeks after the first virus-related death of a lawmaker in Pakistan took place in the eastern city of Lahore.
Pakistan on Tuesday reported 78 deaths in the past 24 hours from the country’s outbreak.
Critics blame Prime Minister Imran Khan for an increase in deaths and infections. They accuse him of easing restrictions last month at a time when there was a need to enforce a stricter lockdown to contain the spread of the virus.
Pakistan has recorded a total of 76,512 confirmed cases and 1,688 deaths since February.