China Sends Medical Aid to Pakistan 03/28 08:41
ISLAMABAD (AP) -- China sent a plane loaded with medical personnel and
supplies to aid Pakistan in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus in
one of the world's most populous nations, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said
Across the Middle East and elsewhere, the outbreak has raised concerns that
health systems strapped by multiple wars, refugee crises and unstable economies
won't be able to handle a growing numbers in cases. Iran is battling the worst
outbreak in the region. Iranian state TV raised Saturday that the virus death
toll by another 139 people, pushing the total fatalities to 2,517 amid 35,408
China has sought to portray itself as a global leader in the fight against
the outbreak, which began a few months ago in its Wuhan province. The plane
carrying aid to Pakistan was met at the capital's airport Saturday by Foreign
Minister Shah Mahmood Qureishi, who greeted the arriving Chinese doctors and
On Friday, China sent ventilators, masks and other medical equipment to the
South Asian country, and about a week ago sent a shipment of masks.
Pakistan is a key link in China's ambitious multi-billion-dollar One Road
Project linking south and central Asia with China. China is also a key military
supplier for nuclear-armed Pakistan, having supplied the country with missiles
capable of carrying atomic weapons.
Pakistan, with a population of 220 million, currently has 1,408 confirmed
cases of the virus, including 11 deaths from the illness it causes, COVID-19.
Most of the infected people there were travelers returning from neighboring
Most people infected by the virus only experience mild symptoms, such as
fever and cough, and recover within a few weeks. But the virus can cause severe
respiratory illness and death, particularly in older patients or those with
underlying health problems.
Pakistan has closed its borders with both Iran and Afghanistan, but has come
under widespread criticism for its initial lax response to the virus.
Even as the pandemic spread to the country, Pakistani authorities allowed
tens of thousands of Islamic clerics from around the world to congregate for
three days outside the eastern city of Lahore. Some 200 of the clerics are now
quarantined at the site of the gathering, a sprawling compound belonging to an
Islamic missionaries group, Tableeghi Jamaat.
Many of the visiting clerics at the conference returned to their home
countries, some of them carrying the coronavirus. The first two reported cases
in the Gaza Strip attended the three-day gathering in Pakistan, and are now
under quarantine in Gaza. Other linked cases have emerged elsewhere in the
Middle East and Central Asia.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has refused to impose a countrywide
lockdown saying it would devastate the country's poor, but ordered
non-essential businesses closed, including restaurants, money changers and
As of Saturday, the government still had not ordered mosques closed
nationwide, instead relying on recommendations to worshippers not to gather for
weekly Friday prayers. Pakistani officials are reluctant to defy local hardcore
Islamic leaders, who can whip up mobs to protest any perceived insults to
religion. Some of these clerics have even taken to social media urging the
faithful to fill the mosques, saying it is their religious obligation.
The southern Sindh province has imposed a wider lockdown, but without
closing mosques. In the eastern Punjab province, only groceries and pharmacies
According to Pakistan's federal health authorities, the outbreak is so far
concentrated in the Punjab, with 490 confirmed cases there, and Sindh which has
457 confirmed infections. Other cases are spread throughout several other
regions, including the capital, Islamabad.
Health authorities in the country's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province
reported one additional death Saturday, a woman in the district of Dir. Ajmal
Wazir, a spokesman for the provincial government, said the woman fell sick
after returning from a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, before dying in a government
hospital where she tested positive for the coronavirus.
In Iran, officials have repeatedly insisted they have the outbreak under
control, despite concerns it could overwhelm the country's health facilities.
Iran's government has faced widespread criticism for not acting faster to
contain the virus. Only in recent days have authorities ordered nonessential
businesses to close and banned travel between cities --- long after other
nations in the region imposed sweeping lockdowns.
U.S. Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland on Saturday urged the country's
warring groups to suspend fighting in and around the capital, Tripoli, as "an
absolute necessity" to allow public health officials across the divided country
to contain the epidemic.
Libya's health system is near the point of collapse after years of civil
war. It has so far reported one confirmed case of coronavirus.
The North African country is governed by rival authorities based in Tripoli
and eastern Libya whose forces have been battling over the capital for nearly a
Violence has continued despite promises from both sides to halt the fighting
after appeals for a cease-fire from the United Nations and world powers so
authorities can focus on fighting the virus.
Authorities in Gaza, which has been under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade
since the Hamas militant group seized power there in 2007, have reported nine
Gaza's health care infrastructure has been severely eroded by years of
conflict and isolation. A major outbreak in the territory, which is home to
more than 2 million Palestinians, could be extremely difficult to contain.
Another major area of concern is Yemen, where the rebel Houthis have been at
war with a Saudi-led coalition for five years. The war has killed more than
100,000 people, displaced millions more and driven the Arab world's poorest
country to the brink of famine.
Sudan's Health Ministry reported two more confirmed cases, bringing the
total cases to five, including one death. Both of the new cases were Sudanese
travelers returning from abroad last week, one coming from France, and another
from the United Arab Emirates.
Sudan has been rocked by over a year of political turmoil and protests that
were triggered by a plunging economy.