Pakistan’s 26-year-old ‘hero doctor’ passes away in fight against COVID-19

Nearly 800 in Pakistan have been infected by the coronavirus pandemic

coronavirus-pakistan-cleaning-PDMA-Taftan-Reuterse Men with face masks spray near tents set up by the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) to quarantine people who cross from Iran border post-Taftan, on the outskirts of Quetta, Pakistan | Reuters

A young, 26-year-old Pakistani doctor contracted the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) while treating pilgrims, who recently returned from Iraq and Iran, in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. According to reports, nearly 800 people in Pakistan have been infected by the novel coronavirus.

News agency PTI reported that Riaz was part of a 10-member team of the doctors tasked with screening patients returning from Iran via Taftan. He later started providing services to the suspected patients in isolation centres established for them in Gilgit.

Reports from Pakistan claimed that Riaz, after treating his patients went to bed on Friday, but couldn’t wake up the next day. He was first rushed to a military hospital and then to district hospital, where a CT scan machine was out of order. He was put on ventilator and died on Sunday.

An unverified video, purportedly of Riaz speaking about ensuring medical treatment for the pilgrims, has gone viral on social media. “We will see what the issue is. If the pilgrims need further treatment, they will be shifted to district hospital, but if they can be treated here, we will provide treatment to them here.” With the exception of a bare mask, he had no other protective equipment on.  

“It is with extreme sadness that the Gilgit-Baltistan health department confirms that Usama Riaz who played a key role in the war against coronavirus has passed away," the Gilgit Baltistan government tweeted on Monday.

"Usama proved himself the real hero by sacrificing his life to save others,” GB Information Minister Shams Mir said. Riaz will be declared a national hero.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

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