52 new coronavirus cases push Pakistan’s tally to 237

Published: March 17, 2020
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Soldiers wearing facemasks stand guard on road leading to a quarantine faciltity (R) for people returning from Iran via the Pakistan-Iran border town of Taftan to prevent the spread the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Sukkur in southern Sindh province on March 17, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

Soldiers wearing facemasks stand guard on road leading to a quarantine faciltity (R) for people returning from Iran via the Pakistan-Iran border town of Taftan to prevent the spread the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Sukkur in southern Sindh province on March 17, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

KARACHI / ISLAMABAD: Provincial authorities on Tuesday confirmed 51 new cases of the novel coronavirus in Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, pushing the country’s tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases to 237.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Taimur Khan Jhagra announced one more confirmed case of COVID-19, pushing the provincial tally to 16.

“… [We] have received news of one new positive case of #coronavirus in Abbottabad. The gentleman has come to Pakistan from the UK. This takes K-P total cases to 16. He has been home quarantined since he displayed no symptoms,” he wrote on his official Twitter handle.

Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, from his official Twitter handle announced 18 fresh cases in the province.

“On the basis of test reports, of suspected patients, I can confirm that the number of confirmed #coronavirus patients is now 26,” he wrote.

“We are testing all the suspected patients and 736 Zaireen (pilgrims) quarantined in DG Khan. 1,276 Zaireen coming from Taftan will also be quarantined,” he added.

Balochistan government spokesperson Liaquat Shahwani, meanwhile, confirmed six new cases in the provinces, raising its tally to 16. “Patients are being treated in isolation ward of Sheikh Khalifah Bin Zayyad Hospital [in Quetta],” he was quoted as saying.

Advisor to Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Information Murtaza Wahab announced the new cases through Twitter.

Wahab said a total of 274 pilgrims were tested out of which 134 tested positive in Sukkur. In the rest of Sindh, 38 patients tested positive out of which 36 are under treatment while two have recovered. Five out of the latest patients had recently returned from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Earlier, Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid confirmed five new COVID-19 cases in the province in a news conference.

Overall, Sindh has 172 confirmed cases while Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has 16, Balochistan has 16, Islamabad four, Gilgit-Baltistan three, Punjab 26 and Azad Jammu and Kashmir has reported none till now.

The situational report provided by the National Institute of Health early Tuesday claimed the country’s tally at 187 with 150 confirmed cases in Sindh, 15 in K-P, 14 in Balochistan, four in Islamabad, three in G-B and one in Punjab.

There were a total of 499 COVID-19 tests performed across the country during the last 24 hours.

Four patients have been discharged after recovering – one in Islamabad and three in Sindh. However, the Sindh Health Department puts the tally at two.

According to NIH, a total of 995,821 travellers have been screened at entry points so far out of which 20,187 travelers were checked in the 24 hours.

The total number of suspected patients in the country stands at 533, with around 100 being added to the number during the last 24 hours.

Varying stats

The varying stats paint a dismissal picture of coordination between the federal and provincial governments. The Sindh government has come out criticising Centre for lack of foresight in quarantine arrangements in Taftan where over 9,000 pilgrims returning from Iran had been quarantined by the Balochistan government in a ‘tent city’.

Sindh Minister Saeed Ghani said the quarantine facilities in Taftan on the Iranian border were inadequate, which resulted in large numbers of coronavirus cases.

After completing the 14-day incubation period, the pilgrims were allowed to travel back to their cities. However, Sindh and K-P sent the pilgrims to isolation facilities in Sukkur and Dera Ismail Khan and tested them before allowing further travel. So far 119 pilgrims tested positive in Sindh and another 15 in K-P.

In Quetta, Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal defended the efforts of the provincial government to contain the coronavirus spread. In a tweet, the chief minister invited his counterparts from other provinces to visit the facilities at the border points and elsewhere in the province.

“Not only we are doing in Taftan… But Rideeq, Quetta, rest districts and now this new facility on Pak Afghan border with Army/FC,” he tweeted. “I invite all CMs, federal authorities and electronic media to come Quetta, see Taftan, Jivani Turbat and Chaman border with me…”

The federal government maintained that health was a provincial matter under the 18th Amendment however Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) argued that border management falls under Centre’s domain.

Govt urges calm as nationwide tally hits 184

Action plan

On March 13, Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) to cobble a unified approach to contain the outbreak.

The huddle was attended by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt-Gen Faiz Hameed provincial chief ministers, top advisors and cabinet members.

It was decided to close borders with Iran and Afghanistan, allow only three airports – Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore – to operate international flights in limited numbers while other airports will see domestic flights, and ban public gatherings.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has been tasked to coordinate with provincial governments and lead the fight against novel coronavirus. It was also decided to close all educational institutions until April 5.

The Pakistan Day parade on March 23 has also been cancelled.

The Sindh government has banned public gatherings, shut down educational institutions, postponed religious celebrations and closed shrines, marriage halls, cinemas, gyms, social clubs etc. Punjab government is said to have made a similar decision.

In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the education institutions have been closed till April 5 and suspended wedding activities around the province.

Balochistan has also limited activities and closed educational institutions till the end of March.

 

Follow our live coverage of the Covid-19 outbreak in Pakistan and the around the globe here.

 

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