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Coronavirus Cases in Pakistan Spike; Dozens of Cases Reported

ISLAMABAD - The number of coronavirus cases in Pakistan jumped Monday from 52 to more than 180, with most of the patients being returnees from Iran. The situation has raised fears the outbreak could pose a major challenge to an already strained national health?care system.

No deaths or confirmed local transmissions have been reported, and officials say

almost?all of?the cases involve returnees from countries such as China, Iran, Syria,?the?United States,?Britain?and Saudi Arabia.

Most of the patients were in the southern Sindh province, where?146?people were?being kept in isolation wards. Two others were sent home after recovery.?Hundreds more were in quarantine camps in different provincial urban centers.

Provincial government spokesman Murtaza Wahab?noted?a large number of?the cases?involved?pilgrims who?returned?from?Taftaan, a major southwestern crossing point on the Iranian border in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan.

Local officials have warned an unspecified number of returnees used traditional illegal border crossings to avoid being placed in quarantine camps, raising fears of further transmissions.

Pakistan has?sealed its borders with Iran and landlocked Afghanistan until early April to curb the movement of people and goods and stem the spread of COVID-19 in the region.

Authorities have also delayed?the?post-winter reopening of the country's only overland crossing with China, where the coronavirus caused most of the deaths and infections before spreading to other nations.

Last Friday, the Pakistani government ordered all educational institutions to shut, limited international flights, closed cinemas?and?banned wedding parties as well as large gatherings at public places across the country of more than 220 million people.

Beijing's ambassador to Islamabad, Yao Jing, told Chinese state media Monday that China has provided Pakistan with 12,000 test kits, 300,000 masks, 10,000 protective suits and a financial assistance?package?of?$4?million?to build hospitals to deal with the emergency.

China has invested billions of dollars in Pakistan over the past five years, building roads, ports and power plants. The massive collaboration has brought thousands of Chinese engineers and other experts to Pakistan.

Existing public health emergency

Officials acknowledge?the?coronavirus outbreak could pose a serious challenge to Pakistan's stressed medical health?care system, blaming the situation on a lack of funding, neglect, nepotism and corruption.

"The current condition of the public health?care sector in Pakistan is not less than a national tragedy and a national security issue," Minister of Health Zafar Mirza?said at?a seminar in Islamabad earlier this month.

Pakistan,?together with neighboring Afghanistan,?are the only two countries where poliovirus remains endemic, he noted.

Officials acknowledge?the?coronavirus outbreak could pose a serious challenge to Pakistan's stressed medical health?care system, blaming the situation on a lack of funding, neglect, nepotism and corruption.

"The current condition of the public health?care sector in Pakistan is not less than a national tragedy and a national security issue," Minister of Health Zafar Mirza?said at?a seminar in Islamabad earlier this month.

Pakistan,?together with neighboring Afghanistan,?are the only two countries where poliovirus remains endemic, he noted.

Pakistani and WHO officials have identified several pockets of HIV and viral hepatitis B and C in various parts of Pakistan "due to unsafe injection practices and unsafe blood transfusion and improper hospital waste management."

Mirza said Pakistan is the fifth largest country in terms of the number of people suffering from tuberculosis. The population is growing at a rate of 2.4 percent, which will double the number of people in Pakistan in the next 30 years, the minister cautioned.

Source: Voice of America

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