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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Coronavirus enters Pakistan, becomes Pandemic: Saudi bars pilgrims

Coronavirus reached Pakistan through neighboring Iran. A quarantine created near Iran border. Two patients confirmed; one in Karachi and other in Islamabad. Nation in panic: masks' price skyrocketed in Karachi. Schools and institutions closed in two provinces. Novel virus has been identified in more than 45 countries. Saudi closes Mecca for pilgrims. Will it become a pandemic? Even if a pandemic is declared, the world alone "will not prevent a single infection today or save a single life today."

The Pakistani health authorities confirmed two positive cases of Coronavirus in the country. He said both the persons tested positive for the virus, one each in Karachi and Islamabad, who had traveled to Iran for pilgrimage to holy sites and on their return to the country, they tested positive for the disease. In view of the emergent situation, both Sindh and Balochistan governments have closed down all academic institutions.

“I can confirm the first two cases of coronavirus in Pakistan. Both cases are being taken care of according to the clinical standard protocols and both of them are stable. There is no need to panic, things are under control,” Special Assistant to Prime Minister Dr. Zafar Mirza tweeted soon after the Sindh health department announced that young man had been tested positive for Coronavirus in Karachi who is undergoing treatment at an isolation ward of a private hospital in the city.

The Sindh health department confirmed the first patient. “The 22-year-old Jaffri returned from Iran to Karachi by plane. He and his family have been placed in quarantine and the health department is examining all the passengers he had traveled with,” said Meeran Yousuf, a spokesperson for the Sindh Health Minister.

Saudi Arabia bars umrah visitors

Saudi Arabia on Thursday suspended visas for pilgrims wishing to visit Mecca over coronavirus fears, the foreign ministry said.

The government is “suspending entry to the Kingdom for the purpose of Umrah and visiting the Prophet’s Mosque temporarily”, the foreign ministry said in a statement, referring to the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca that can be undertaken at any time of year.

Umrah attracts tens of thousands of devout Muslims from all over the globe each month.

The foreign ministry said it was also suspending visas for tourists visiting from countries where the new virus is a “danger”.

Even as the number of fresh cases declines at the epicentre of the disease in China, there has been a sudden increase in parts of Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

Iran has emerged as a major hotspot in the region, where 15 people have succumbed to the disease — officially known as COVID-19.

The Gulf states of Kuwait and Bahrain have also announced additional cases this week.

When does an epidemic become a pandemic?

As the novel coronavirus continues its spread across the globe, what does the designation mean to world healthcare systems as they try to rein in the deadly disease?

The World Health Organization has yet to declare the current outbreak, which originated in central China last month, a pandemic. It has indicated however that we should prepare ourselves for one.

The WHO defines a pandemic as a situation in which “the whole world’s population would likely be exposed to this infection and potentially a proportion of them fall sick,” said its emergencies director Michael Ryan.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that countries should be doing everything they could “to prepare for a potential pandemic”. “For the moment we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus and we are not witnessing large-scale deaths,” he said on Monday.

While the number of fresh cases in mainland China has slowed slightly in recent weeks, several other countries have seen infections mushroom. These include South Korea, which has seen more than 1,100 people infected, and Italy, with more than 300 confirmed cases.

On Tuesday Iran reported four more deaths, taking the total number of fatalities to 19 and confirmed infections to 139. “What we see are epidemics in different parts of the world, affecting countries in different ways and requiring a tailored response,” said Tedros.

Read more: Corona virus at the gate: Pakistan on high alert

The WHO has not updated its designation of the outbreak since January 30, when it classed it as “a public health emergency of international concern”. Under its old warning system, which had six stages of alert, the WHO could simply start referring to coronavirus as a pandemic, which comes from the Ancient Greek for “pan demos”: all people.

“Definitions and terminology aside, our advice remains the same,” said WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic. For Bharat Pankhania, of the University of Exeter Medical School in England, coronavirus is already a pandemic “in all but name”.

“It’s only a matter of time before the World Health Organisation starts to use the term in its communications,” he said.

David Heymann, professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said the terminology risked being a distraction. “What is necessary is to understand the current situation in each country,” he said. Tedros did hint that designating the outbreak a pandemic prematurely might do more harm than good.

Read more: Ban on Wild Animals Import: China & Iran Trying Hard To Contain COVID-19

“Using the word pandemic now does not fit the facts, but it may certainly cause fear. This is not the time to focus on what word we use,” he said.

He added that even if a pandemic is declared, the world alone “will not prevent a single infection today or save a single life today.”

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk