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Coronavirus hits Punjab, Section 144 being imposed

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* 54-year-old patient had returned from the UK on March 10
* Tally rises to 53 as four new cases reported from Karachi, one from Islamabad
* 13 pilgrims who arrived in Sukkur from Iran also tested positive for contagious disease

Punjab on Sunday reported its first case of COVID-19, a mysterious pneumonia-like disease caused by the novel coronavirus, after a 54-year-old patient who returned from the United Kingdom on March 10 tested positive at a Lahore hospital, pushing the tally in Pakistan to 53.

“It is the first #COVID19 case in Punjab so far. All of his close contacts are tested negative but they will be kept in isolation for 15 days as per SOPs,” Punjab government spokesperson Musarrat Cheema confirmed in a tweet.

Punjab’s Health Minister Yasmin Rashid on Sunday also confirmed the first positive case of coronavirus detected in the provincial capital. A private laboratory that conducted the tests for the diagnosis declared the individual as infected.

Dr Yasmin Rashid said that the patient’s blood samples have been sent for further testing while the individual has been kept in quarantined isolation. It is also said that the patient had recently returned to Pakistan from the UK and was cleared in the medical screening conducted at the airport. The patient had taken the onus and got his tests done from a private lab afterwards due to deteriorating health.

The total number of coronavirus cases in Sindh doubled to 35 on Sunday, up from 17 a day earlier. At least 13 pilgrims, who arrived in Sukkur from Iran, have also tested positive for the contagious disease, raising the tally in Sindh to 35 out of which two have been discharged after full recovery. The province now has three locally transmitted cases.

“So far 13 people have tested positive of #COVID?19 from amongst the people who arrived in Sukkur from Taaftaan. These people were purportedly kept in quarantine at the border,” Sindh government spokesperson Mutaza Wahab confirmed in a tweet from his official handle.

In another tweet, the provincial spokesperson said that one more case had tested positive of coronavirus in Sindh.

Five new cases of the novel coronavirus were also confirmed earlier in the day – four in Karachi and one in Islamabad.

According to details, the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) confirmed one case in Islamabad while the Sindh Health Department reported four new patients in Karachi.

The latest patient in Islamabad is the husband of the woman who recently arrived from the United States and tested positive. The woman is currently in critical condition, receiving treatment at the isolation ward of PIMS.

During a meeting of the provincial task force on coronavirus, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah directed the chief secretary to acquire more kits for testing. “We are making full efforts to control the situation but the people also have to take precautions,” the chief minister said.

He advised the public to call the coronavirus control room at 021-99204452, 021-99206565.

The surge in cases comes days after the National Security Committee (NSC) decided to take a number of steps to stop the spread of coronavirus in the country including closing the borders, banning all large public gatherings and closing educational institutions. A day earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan in his first statement on the coronavirus pandemic said that he was “personally overseeing measures” to stop the spread of COVID-19. The premier added that “while there was a need for caution, there was no need to panic.”

The Sindh Health Department has reported another case of coronavirus from Karachi. The patient arrived in Karachi from Quetta the other day, said Meeran Yousuf, the media coordinator to the Sindh health minister.

According to the Sindh government’s spokesperson, Barrister Murtaza Wahab, “the patient originally belongs to Balochistan” and had reached Karachi Saturday night.

With the latest case, the number of patients who have tested positive for the virus in Karachi has gone up to five. Currently, 35 people in Sindh have tested positive for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Gilgit-Baltistan’s courts will remain closed from March 16 to April 5 as a precautionary measure to stop the spread of coronavirus.

According to a circular issued by the Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Court’s registrar, the decision has been made in the wake of the increasing number of coronavirus infections.

On the other hand, the two coronavirus patients in Skardu, who were admitted to a local hospital after confirmation from NIH Islamabad, are improving.

This was stated by District Focal person Dr Karamat Raza while talking to media persons in Skardu. He said both the patients are still in isolation and in few days their test would be repeated. He said samples from some other suspected persons have also been sent to NIH Islamabad for confirmation.

Meanwhile, a meeting chaired by Punjab Chief Secretary on Sunday decided enforcement of Section 144 across the province amid apprehensions about novel coronavirus.

The meeting reviewed precautionary measures regarding prevention of coronavirus in Punjab.

The session also decided to cancel training at all police training centres across the province.

The meeting declared the police training centre at Kala Shah Kaku as quarantine centre for suspected patients of novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The meeting also decided that the wedding functions in the province will only be permitted within premises of a house. The meeting also warned of legal action over calling teachers to academic institutions in the province.

The provincial government has imposed ban over all educational, religious and political gatherings under Section 144.