Pakistan's first coronavirus death leaves a trail of infections behind

PESHAWAR (Reuters) - A Pakistani village where the country’s first death from the coronavirus was reported last week has seen an alarming rise in cases, officials said on Wednesday, indicating how quickly the community spread of the disease is taking place in the country.

A man wears protective mask as he walks with through a closed market during a partial lockdown after Pakistan shut all markets, public places and discouraged large gatherings amid an outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Karachi, Pakistan, March 24, 2020. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

Health officials said at least 39 of 46 tests conducted in the village of Manga in Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, have come back positive, even as the total number of positive cases in Pakistan topped 1,000 on Wednesday.

Reuters on Monday reported about the case of Sadaat Khan, who upon returning from a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia had hosted a large banquet attended by 2,000 people. He had not disclosed being ill upon his return, and also refused quarantine when his symptoms intensified. Khan, who died on March 18, was the first fatality in Pakistan from the fast-spreading virus.

His case alarmed authorities, who declared the entire village of 7,000 people a mass quarantine zone.

“We tested close relatives as well as some random tests,” the province’s health minister, Taimur Khan Jhagra, said in a video, adding these were just the first batch of results from the village.

“There are significant lessons for all from this case,” said Jhagra.

Meanwhile, residents of Manga, which has now been cordoned off for a week, told Reuters the situation was critical.

“The army has been deployed in and outside Manga. We aren’t allowed to go out of our homes,” said, Imtiaz Ali, a resident of the village.

“The government has taken 98 people to quarantine centers,” he said, adding food supplies were running low.

Another local, Liaqat Ali Shah, said people of the village feared starvation as they had not been able to work for a week, and most were daily wage earners.

Writing by Gibran Peshimam; Editing by Euan Rocha and Alex Richardson