PM Imran directs preventive measures amid coronavirus threat

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday has directed preventive measures in the wake of possible coronavirus epidemic in Pakistan. The Prime Minister’s Office has issued a special letter to the concerned ministries in which they have been asked to devise a coordinated strategy to deal with the threat of the coronavirus. The letter also directed to convene a high level 15-member interministerial committee meeting. According to the letter, there have been 2,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the world so far. “Given the large number of Chinese people in Pakistan and the absence of timely security measures in view of traveling between the two countries, the possibility of coronavirus outbreak in Pakistan cannot be termed impossible”, read letter. Therefore, a comprehensive strategy should be formulated, and recommendations should be submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office within a week, it added.

The interministerial committee includes Foreign Secretary, Interior and Aviation officials, DG Military Operations, DG Civil Aviation, DG Airport Security Force, NDMA Chairman and other agencies officials. Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho has issued a health advisory to government hospital amid the rise of deadly coronavirus. She expressed that the World Health Organization (WHO) alerted the province of dangerous virus.

Dr Pechuho expressed that WHO has advised the victims to wear masks and refrain from touching others. She further said that the virus can be spread through animals. Coronavirus makes breathing difficult for affectee. The number of individuals suspected to have contracted the deadly coronavirus has risen to five in Pakistan, with three of them admitted to the Services Hospital in Lahore, and two of them admitted to the Nishtar Hospital in Multan.

According to latest updates available with the media, one of the two patients at the Nishtar Hospital is Pakistani. The three persons admitted to the Services Hospital are Chinese, hailing from Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, and their relevant samples have been sent to a laboratory in Hong Kong for confirmation if the patients contract coronavirus or not before their treatment could be started.

Treatment can be initiated only after their medical reports are received within 24 to 48 hours, sources told the media. All suspected patients are kept in isolation and intensive care to keep the possible spread of the virus. More than 2,000 Pakistani students, who are studying at the Engineering and Science University of Wuhan and belong to Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), have sought help from the Chinese and Pakistani government officials for their evacuation from Wuhan after the outbreak of deadly contagious coronavirus.

In a video message, a group of students stated that due to the deadly virus outbreak, the city has been cut off from other provinces of China, and they have been facing severe shortage of food. The death toll from a coronavirus outbreak in China rose to 81 on Monday, as the government extended the Lunar New Year holiday and more big businesses shut down or told staff to work from home in an effort to curb the spread. The total number of confirmed cases in China rose about 30% to 2,744, about half of them in Hubei province, whose capital is Wuhan.

The number of deaths from the flu-like virus in Hubei climbed to 76 from 56, health officials said, with five deaths elsewhere in China, including the southern island province of Hainan, which reported its first fatality on Monday. While a small number of cases have been confirmed in more than 10 countries, linked to people who traveled from Wuhan, no deaths have been reported elsewhere. Wuhan is already in virtual lockdown and severe limits on movement are in place in several other Chinese cities. The city of 11 million clamped down further on Monday, announcing the suspension of visa and passport services until Jan. 30. = DNA

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