Coronavirus. PHOTO: REUTERS

Five K-P districts declared ‘most sensitive’ for novel coronavirus

Authorities put on high alert in Kohistan, Shangla, Battagram, Mansehra and Abbottabad

Ihsan Dawar February 02, 2020
ABOTTABAD: Amid the cacophony of global alarm bells over the China-originated novel coronavirus, the Pakistan government is also ramping up its defences against the deadly contagion which has infected thousands of people worldwide, triggering declaration of a global emergency by the World Health Organisation.

Though no confirmed case of the coronavirus – medically named 2019-nCoV – has been detected in Pakistan thus far, the government has taken a slew of preventive and precautionary measures. The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government has declared its five northern districts “most sensitive” due to fear of the mysterious illness.

Administration officials identified these districts as Kohistan, Shangla, Battagram, Mansehra and Abbottabad. “We are on high alert due to the movement of Chinese citizens in the region,” Altaf Hussain, the deputy commissioner of Battagram, told The Express Tribune.

“We’re monitoring the situation and are coordinating with the federal and provincial governments.”

Hussain said around 112 Chinese nationals – including engineers, technical staff and labourers – are working on a CPEC [China-Pakistan Economic Corridor] project in Battagram alone. “Of them, 20 have gone home to celebrate the Chinese New Year festival with their families in China.”

They might not be returning soon as the Pakistan government has suspended all flights to and from China and delayed the opening of the only border crossing with its neighbour, he added.

The novel coronavirus originated in a wet market of Wuhan city, in the central Chinese province of Hubei which has been put under quarantine in an attempt to prevent the proliferation of the highly infectious viral disease.

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Dr Gul Shehzad Khan, the district health officer (DHO) Battagram, told The Express Tribune that they have set up four centres in different parts of the district to ensure round-the-clock scanning and monitoring of patients having symptoms similar to the novel coronavirus.

“We have also established isolation wards as a precautionary measure where health staff is available on an emergency basis,” he added. “So far, there has been no confirmed case in the district.”

Meanwhile, sources said the health department has demanded that the provincial and federal governments provide the “viral transport media” – the kit for transporting samples of suspected coronavirus patients to a lab for investigation. The health staff also lacks other medical paraphernalia required for dealing with highly contagious diseases including gloves, masks, gowns, and caps, etc.

In K-P, the lab test facility for the novel coronavirus would only be available at the National Institute of Health in Islamabad and it would be possible to transport samples to NIH only if the health staff has the “viral transport media.”

Prime Minister’s top health aide Dr Zafar Mirza said a day earlier that the government has set up two centres – one each at Aga Khan Hospital in Karachi and Shaukat Khanum Hospital in Lahore – for diagnosis and treatment of coronavirus patients. The government has also received diagnostic kits for the contagion.


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