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‘U.S. Stands With You’

by Newsweek Pakistan
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Deputy Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells. Fabrice Coffrini—AFP

American diplomat issues condolences over the death of Pakistani doctor who was treating COVID-19 patients

A senior U.S. diplomat on Tuesday offered condolences to Pakistan over the death of a doctor who contracted the deadly COVID-19 disease while treating suffering patients.

Dr. Osama Riaz, 36, was screening pilgrims who had returned to Pakistan from Iran. He tested positive for the disease on Friday, according to a senior health official in Gilgit-Baltistan. He subsequently died on Monday, with doctors saying the lack of personal protection equipment was to blame. “We request the government to immediately provide us personal protection equipment,” Dr. Asfandyar Khan, president of staff at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences in Islamabad, told a news conference on Friday. “It is like suicide to treat patients without protection,” he said, adding, “If infection spreads in hospitals, believe me no person will be ready to touch any patient.”

The information department of Gilgit-Baltistan has declared the doctor a martyr and said he would officially be remembered as a national hero.

In her statement, posted on Twitter, U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells praised the work of medical workers across Asia. “We salute all the brave medical workers across South and Central Asia who are risking their lives to help the sick and keep us safe. Saddened to hear of the death of Dr. Osama Riaz, who was on the frontlines of the fight against #COVID19 in Pakistan,” she said. “The U.S. stands with you,” she added.

People across Pakistan have also taken to social media to hail the work being done by medical professionals, many of whom have only recently been assured they would be provided personal protection equipment to ensure they don’t contract the virus from patients during treatment.

The number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, which originated in China’s Wuhan city last year, has climbed to 909 in Pakistan with seven reported deaths and six recoveries.

Overall Tally

Confirmed Cases – 909

Punjab – 265

Sindh – 399

Balochistan – 110

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa – 38

Islamabad – 15

Gilgit-Baltistan – 81

Pakistan-administered Kashmir – 1

Deaths – 7

Recoveries – 6

Globally, COVID-19 has infected over 380,000 people with at least 16,500 deaths. The World Health Organization continues to recommend aggressive testing and social distancing as the best means to curb the spread of the virus.

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