Community Cooperation in One Gilgit-Baltistan District Bends COVID-19 Curve to Zero

Normal life has returned to Nagar district in Gilgit-Baltistan as its administration and residents have managed to stop coronavirus transmission and no COVID-19 cases were recorded in the region as of Friday.

“Since March, we had 94 coronavirus positive cases but after 54 days of untiring efforts today we have zero cases. Now, as bazaars are opened and traffic is back, people should continue to follow safety protocols to keep the disease at bay,” Nagar deputy commissioner Muhammad Shah Rukh Cheema told Arab News.

He attributed the success to cooperation between the local community and district authorities.

Gilgit-Baltistan government spokesman Faizullah Faraq said residents in Nagar have been scrupulously adhering to all preventive measures such as social-distancing, and respected official COVID-19 protocols.

He added that Nagar was initially the worst-hit district of the region, where 501 infection cases and three related death have been reported.

According to Rashid Arshad, spokesman for the Gilgit-Baltistan chief minister, Nagar residents constituted half of the 2,000 pilgrims who in mid-March returned to Pakistan from Iran amid the virus outbreak.

District Health Office (DHO) Nagar Dr. Nuzhat Shafi said that 93 of them tested positive for the virus, but to quarantine them the district administration did not engage hospitals and instead moved them to four-star hotels where they had good quality facilities and nutritious food to swiftly recover.

“We spent sleepless nights to overcome the outbreak. We worked at the office 24-hours a day. I think our excellent coordination, best quarantine facilities at hotels, nutritious food for the quarantined persons to boost their immune systems, and cooperation of the local community helped us reach zero cases today,” she said.

Arshad noted, however, that although the district of 80,000 people is now virus-free, precautions need to remain in place as the easing of lockdown and movement may bring new infections to the region.

At the village level, the administration of Nagar has established checkpoints at which local residents identify all newcomers. Village committees are in touch with the district administration to quickly trace recent contacts of anyone with the virus and help them reach quarantine centers.

After Nagar, another Gilgit-Baltistan district where community cooperation was successful is also likely to become free of COVID-19 in the coming days, according to Faraq, the Gilgit-Baltistan government spokesman.

“After reporting zero cases in Nagar, we are close to declaring zero coronavirus cases in Diamer district in the next two or three days,” he said.

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