In view of the rise in the number of coronavirus cases, medical authorities in Pakistan have put the country on high alert. The alert aims to combat the possible spread of coronavirus from China due to frequent visits of Chinese workers employed on various projects in the country. The coronavirus, which was first reported in Wuhan, has already killed 17 people in China and infected more than 541 and reports of it spreading to other Asian countries have also begun to emerge.
The health ministry on Thursday directed the officials to be on tiptoes while establishing an emergency operation cell to monitor the situation. Though there was no case of the infection detected so far but Pakistan was taking steps before time to control the situation in case of any outbreak.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan on Health, Dr. Zafar Mirza, chairing a meeting of senior officials on Wednesday discussed the measures and a response mechanism after the recent cases of coronavirus in China, media reports said.
"I am writing to all chief ministers to ensure necessary arrangements in all the provinces," said Mirza.
"I am establishing contact with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) while we will also be working closely with the Embassy of China in Pakistan to deal with the crisis."
The PM's aide told the participants of the meeting that the directorate of the health ministry dealing with airport and port health services had been asked to maintain strict vigilance at the points of entry and check travellers coming in from affected areas.
"The directorate has been advised to strengthen health desk and quarantine arrangements at the ports of entry," he added.
On the directions of the PM's aide, the National Institute of Health Islamabad has issued an advisory and alert to all provincial health departments especially at points of entry at all airports and ground crossings in Pakistan to remain vigilant.
The purpose of the advisory is to alert and sensitise the health staff across the country to detect suspected cases of the viral infection and take preventive measures.
There are 41 incoming flights from China to Pakistan every week, mostly taking away and bringing the Chinese.
Thousands of Chinese nationals who are working on projects in various cities in Pakistan as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) regularly travel between the two countries, raising fears they could spread the disease.
The CPEC project is part of Chinese President Xi Jinping's signature Belt and Road project.
The virus has spread to five countries, including the US.
Chinese authorities have warned that the disease could spread further in the ongoing holiday season during which millions travel at home and abroad amid official advisories to people of Wuhan, the epicentre of illness, not to leave the city.
The coronavirus has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China in 2002-2003.