CoronaVirus: Screening at Pakistan’s international airports begins, says minister

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By Muhammad Luqman
Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has started screening of the passengers at four major airports of the country including Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar in the wake of outbreak of coronavirus in neighbouring China.
Around 40 direct or indirect flights land every week from China at the country’s three major airports in Lahore, Karachi and the capital city of Islamabad.
“We are vigilant of the situation; All the necessary steps are being taken to help avert the spread of the disease,” Federal Aviation Minister, Gulam Sarwar Khan told media persons in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore.
Under the screening measures, at Islamabad International Airport, every passenger from China would have to pass through health counters where doctors and paramedics would inspect them through thermal body scanning machines and thermometers. In case someone is identified as the virus-carrier, they would be kept in isolation rooms designated by the CAA before being shifted to the hospital, according to officials.
Extra precautions would be in place to deal with the expected influx of Chinese workers when they come back after celebrating the Lunar New Year at home.
Thousands of Pakistani and Chinese nationals who frequently travel between the two countries, is major source of concern . Thousands of Chinese citizens who are working in Pakistan under US $ 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects and nearly 28,000 Pakistani students are are studying in China, according to foreign office spokesperson.

Earlier, Special Assistant to the PM on Health Dr Zafar Mirza was quoted by *The Express Tribune* as saying that Pakistan will send relevant samples to international labs if cases of the virus surfaced in the country.
The respiratory virus has claimed over 40 lives since emerging from a seafood and animal market in Wuhan city of China. It has so far infected 1400 people in China and been detected as far away as the United States.
Animals are suspected to be the primary source of the outbreak, with Chinese health officials saying the virus originated from a market where wild animals were illegally sold. Studies published this week suggest that the virus may have originated in bats or snakes.
The virus has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed nearly 800 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003. Like SARS, it can be passed among people through the respiratory tract. The first case of the new virus was confirmed on December 31, 2019.

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