The coronavirus that broke out in China last month has spread to other countries including South Korea, Iran and Italy. After the reported 28 cases of coronavirus infection and death of five people in Iran, Baluchistan government has imposed emergency in the border districts with Iran. Medical teams have been sent to these districts and isolation ward has been set up in the District Headquarter Hospital Chaghi. Prime Minister Imran Khan has spoken to the Chief Minister of Baluchistan Jam Kamal Alayani over telephone and has discussed with him various options and possible measures to stop the virus from entering the country. Iraq and Afghanistan have closed their borders with Iran.
Large number of people makes cross-border movement at the entry and exit point of Taftan where screening facility for coronavirus is not available. The facility exists on Quetta Airport. It seems worthwhile that border with Iran has been temporarily closed as was done in case of China. But the unfrequented border crossing points which are being used by human traffickers for sending illegal migrants to Turkey via Iran must also be monitored and plugged if possible. Moreover, the people who may have recently visited Iran must be located and their screening tests be done. The virus has claimed 2462 lives in China and 79,930 infected people are under treatment. The number of infections and rate of fatalities is declining but its spread effect is yet to be controlled. From South Korea cases of 550 corona virus infections have reported including death of five people. The total number of confirmed cases in Italy has risen to 79 and two people have died from the infection of this virus.
Concerns are growing over the global spread of novel coronavirus after spike in cases outside of mainland China with no connection with China or the city of Wuhan, where the virus first broke out. World Health Organisation (WHO) Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus said the other day that there is still a chance to contain the virus but window of opportunity is narrowing. The WHO has called on countries to continue containment measures while preparing for community transmission as the outbreak could still go on in any direction. In this scenario the spell over of virus from neighbouring country Iran cannot be ruled out.
The WHO alarm once again validates the decision of government of Pakistan to not repatriate Pakistanis stranded in China. However, there is dire need for strengthening the screening, and treatment facilities to contain spread effect of virus into the country. There are no permanent state-of-the art screening, Quarantine and treatment facilities of coronavirus infected people in Pakistan. Currently screening of suspects is done with testing kits supplied by China last month. Moreover, no research literature has been published in the topnotch medical journals. The WHO has tasked scientist to conduct research to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, named as COVID-19. However, the outbreak of coronavirus in China and its spread to other countries in Asia and Europe serves a lesson for the political leadership to take immediate decision for establishing Virology Lab at National Health Laboratories Islamabad and recruit high caliber experts to run this facility efficiently for screening tests and preparation of vaccines for viral diseases which have already been developed in other countries and Pakistan solely rely on their donations from WHO.
An English daily newspaper of Pakistan has reported that Chloroquine phosphate tablets manufactured by Bayer pharmaceutical firm in Karachi have shown wonderful result for the treatment coronavirus infected people in China. A few Pakistani friends of China have exported 300,000 tablets of this medicine which had reached Guangzhou city of China. The recurrence of this mutant virus in future in neighbouring countries and its likely spell over effect cannot be ruled out which necessitates putting in place both preventive and curative healthcare system in the country.