Pakistan on Wednesday confirmed its first two cases of the novel coronavirus as the epidemic continued its march beyond China — the source of the outbreak.
“I can confirm first two cases of coronavirus in Pakistan. Both cases are being taken care of according to clinical standard protocols & both of them are stable,” said Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza via a tweet on Wednesday evening.
“No need to panic, things are under control,” he added.
Later, addressing a late-night press conference in Quetta, Mirza said one of the cases was reported in Sindh while the second was confirmed in “federal areas”. He added that both the affected persons had travelled to Iran in the last two weeks. He, however, refused to comment further on the two cases.
In response to a question, he said 15 suspected cases of the virus are currently under investigation, while 100 cases have tested negative so far.
He said instead of creating panic or worrying needlessly, people should “take precautions and show responsibility”. Mirza urged the public to go to hospitals if they start experiencing any of the symptoms and contact the government helpline on 1166.
He said due to measures taken by the government to prevent the spread of the virus, Pakistan is the last country in the region where COVID-19 has been reported.
“We are on the right track. With Allah’s blessings, this [virus] will not take the form of an outbreak in Pakistan,” the SAPM said, adding that measures are in place to prevent an outbreak.
Sindh reports first case
Mirza’s tweet came moments after the Sindh health department announced that a young man had tested positive for the coronavirus in Karachi.
The 22-year-old male patient travelled to Iran where he acquired COVID-19, Media Coordinator to the Health and Population Welfare Minister Meeran Yousuf said in a statement, days after Pakistan closed its land border with Iran, where 19 people have died from the virus.
The patient travelled from Iran to Karachi by plane on February 20. He and his family have been placed in quarantine and the Health Department is in the process of examining all the passengers that he travelled with, the statement added.
Speaking to DawnNewsTV, Yousuf said the man had started showing symptoms while he was in Iran. His tests were carried out today at the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) which turned out to be positive, she said.
Yousuf said the Sindh government has informed the federal government, World Health Organisation and other partners about the confirmation of the virus in the patient. “The passengers who travelled with him were exposed as well; we will track down all the passengers and carry out their tests,” she added.
No information was immediately available about the second case identified in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, Balochistan government as a precautionary measure announced the closure of all education institutions in the province until March 15.
According to Balochistan Minister for Secondary and Higher Education Sardar Yar Mohammad Rind, all government schools, madressahs and private schools in the province will remain closed until March 15.
Sindh government announced that educational institutions in the province would be shut on Thursday and Friday (Feb 27 and Feb 28).
Spread of the coronavirus
The coronavirus has killed at least 2,700 people around the world while more than 81,000 have been infected.
The virus is believed to have originated late last year in a food market in the Chinese city of Wuhan that was illegally selling wildlife. Health experts think it may have originated in bats and then passed to humans, possibly via another animal species.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organisation said there are now more new cases of the coronavirus reported each day outside China than inside the hardest-hit country.
The UN health agency had put the number of new cases in China at 411 on Tuesday, while those registered outside the country stood at 427.