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Pakistan’s Confirmed Coronavirus Cases Continue to Soar

by Newsweek Pakistan

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Over 100 new cases reported in a single day, with national tally hitting 187

Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza on Monday sought to quell panic, as the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Pakistan hit 187, the single highest rise in the national tally since the first case was reported in the country on Feb. 26.

“There is no need to panic as the numbers in Pakistan are far lower than those of other countries,” Mirza told journalists in Islamabad during a briefing that he promised would become a daily fixture so long as the pandemic continued. He said the country’s preventative measures were working and almost all the recorded cases thus far were of foreign spread.

However, experts have pointed out that Pakistan is not testing for community spread, as the government has barred officially designated facilities from administering the coronavirus test to anyone who has not traveled abroad—or had direct contact with foreign visitors—regardless of symptoms. In the absence of this testing, the numbers being provided by the government are seen as dubious at best—massively underreported at worst.

On Monday night, the overall tally of coronavirus cases in Pakistan climbed to 187 after the day started with 95 cases. The majority of the new cases were reported from Sindh province, with health officials of the province saying the infections had been found during retesting of pilgrims who had recently been released from quarantine in Taftan after returning from Iran two weeks earlier.

The same situation arose in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, with the former reporting one case found in Dera Ghazi Khan, where the returned pilgrims are currently being retested. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Finance Minister Taimur Jhagra, meanwhile, posted on Twitter that the province’s first 15 cases had also been found among returning pilgrims who had been quarantined at Taftan till now.

Overall Tally

Sindh – 150

Punjab – 1

Balochistan – 14

Gilgit-Baltistan – 5

Islamabad – 2

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa – 15

There is now no part of the country that has not reported at least one case of the coronavirus.

“Out of this [total of 150] 119 are zaireen (pilgrims) who are being kept in Sukkur,” tweeted Murtaza Wahab, the adviser to the Sindh chief minister on information. “This exponential increase is largely due to the recent inflow of people brought in from Taftan after a purported quarantine,” he added.

As questions arose over the quarantine facilities in Taftan, Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal sought to defend the efforts of his government to contain the spread of the deadly disease. In a posting on Twitter, he posted pictures of new quarantine and isolation facilities being set up to accommodate potential patients.

“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 said. “I invite all C.M.s, federal authorities and electronic media to come Quetta, see Taftan, Jivani Turbat and Chaman border with me.”

Pakistan’s response to the coronavirus spread still lags behind other nations, as major Western centers such as Italy, France and Spain have gone into lockdown for a period of two weeks to enforce social distancing and halt the spread of COVID-19. Globally, 158 countries have now been affected, with more than 6,500 people dead and over 170,000 infected.

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