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Coronavirus: Cases in Gilgit surge as Pakistan sends Iran-returned pilgrims to the region, says activist

News Agencies | Updated on: 12 April 2020, 8:48 IST
Pakistan sends Iran-returned pilgrims

There is a surge in COVID-19 positive cases in Gilgit Baltistan (GB) as Pakistan has sent Iran returned pilgrims infected with the virus to the area, according to a senior Gilgit activist.

The Pakistan-occupied Gilgit Baltistan has already reported 215 positive cases and the numbers could surge if testing procedures improve and almost all the cases there are linked to the people who returned from Iran.

Senge H Sering, a Washington-based political activist from Gilgit Baltistan, told ANI: "Despite GB lacking equipment and supplies to deal with suspected patients, Pakistan regime has deliberately moved the Iran-returned pilgrims there without screening them."

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He added: "This is putting extra burden on the GB authorities."

The occupied region lacks basic healthcare infrastructure and is unable to handle the burden of tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 23, a young physician, Osama Riaz, died of coronavirus, which he had contracted while physically handling suspected COVID-19 patients returning to Gilgit Baltistan from Iran via Taftan.

The paramedic succumbed to coronavirus while trying to take care of other infected patients without proper protective equipment.

Dr Osama, who belonged to Chilas in Gilgit Baltistan, was the first casualty and he contracted the virus while screening the pilgrims.

Pakistan took steps to close down its 960-km border with Iran late February. But, it could not deter Pakistani citizens from travelling to the coronavirus-hit Iran in large numbers for pilgrimage.

Senge also said that Pakistan's failure to impose a nationwide lockdown will result in a surge of coronavirus cases. He praised Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for swift action by imposing a countrywide lockdown.

Senge said: "As one of the most accomplished Indian politicians, PM Modi holds immense respect and leverage among the country's people. This will help him take decisive actions to control the China Virus. But more important than this is cooperation from the governments of all States and Union Territories."

He added: "Pakistan, which is one of the worst-hit countries among SAARC members, should follow PM Modi and lockdown the country to minimize fatalities. PM Imran Khan's failed policies are turning occupied Gilgit Baltistan into an epicentre of China Virus."

In Pakistan, the COVID-19 cases have sharply increased to 4,788 and the toll has reached 71, officials said on Saturday.


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First published: 12 April 2020, 8:48 IST