The news: The first two cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Pakistan on Wednesday. Sindh Health Department announced the first case, which was shortly followed by Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza’s tweet confirming the cases. Media Coordinator to the Health and Population Welfare Minister Meeran Yousuf reported that a 22-year old man from Sindh, who had recently traveled from Iran by air, was confirmed to have the contagious disease. The patient and his family have been quarantined, while other passengers from the flight are being tracked down and tested.
Spreading faster outside China: Coronavirus, which originated in the Chinese province Wuhan, has spread to over 30 countries infecting 81,000 people with 2,700 casualties. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that the number of newly confirmed cases outside China has risen above those inside the country. Many countries including Pakistan closed borders with Iran after its casualties due to coronavirus reached 12.
Briefings: Dr. Zafar Mirza called a late-night press conference with Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan in Quetta reiterating that a case had been confirmed in Karachi and the other in Islamabad. Mirza said that both patients had traveled to Iran in the past two weeks, and asserted that 15 cases were still under investigation to confirm whether they had coronavirus, while 100 patients had already tested negative. Mirza maintained, ‘there is no need to panic’, as security and precautionary measures have been put in place. While talking to the media on Thursday, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah issued the guidelines for the province with 1,500 individuals set to be screened immediately. The Pakistan government has set up a special helpline “1166” that can be contacted with any queries related to coronavirus.
Implications: Prior to confirmation of these cases, government officials had assured that preventative measures were in place and thermal detection machines were being used to detect fever. However, after the presence of the virus in the country, it seems that these machines may not have worked. The Balochistan government has closed all schools till March 15, while Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani also announced the closure of educational institutions in the province on February 27-28. He stressed that precautions have been taken by the government in case the disease spreads and that hostels surrounding the Karachi area would be evacuated and used as quarantine facilities in that case.
Symptoms and precautions: The symptoms for coronavirus include fever, coughing, and breathing difficulty which may cause pneumonia. The World Health Organization (WHO) advises that anyone who came into contact with an infected patient or traveled from an infected country be scanned. Precautionary measures include washing your hands, not touching your eyes, nose, and mouth and avoiding contact with infected patients.