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GB govt retracts news of first coronavirus death after confirming it

GB govt retracts news of first coronavirus death after confirming it

Minutes after confirming Pakistan's first death from the novel coronavirus, the Gilgit-Baltistan government on Wednesday backtracked from its statement and said the patient who passed away did not have the disease.

The confusion began when GB Health Secretary Rashid Ahmed told a news conference alongside GB Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman that a "58-year-old" man from Diamer district had died from COVID-19.

Minutes later, GB government spokesperson Faizullah Firaq issued a "clarification statement", saying that although the patient had tested positive for COVID-19, he also had pneumonia and therefore the cause of his death was not clear. He also stated the patient's age to be 90, not 58.

In a second statement, Firaq said a report from the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP), Rawalpindi, had shown that the deceased, in fact, did not have coronavirus. He said the patient died from pneumonia.

A copy of the lab report provided by Firaq of the purported patient, seen by, stated that the man had tested negative for COVID-19. It also stated his age to be 80, not 90.

The government accepted its error in another "clarification statement", this one issued by Rasheed Arshad, media coordinator to the GB chief minister, who was present at the press conference when the death was announced.

Arshad stated that the news of a "90-year-old" man in GB dying from COVID-19 was "completely false", adding that such news reports spread panic and fear among the public.

The chief minister's spokesperson acknowledged that the GB government spokesperson had released the news of the man's death "without verification", adding that the government "completely dissociates" itself from the report.

Arshad also stated that the man died from pneumonia and kidney ailments.

The statement urged media outlets to publish information about coronavirus after verification from the health department's focal person.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza, the federal government's point person for COVID-19, in his tweet, however, did not acknowledge miscommunication on the part of the government and instead put the blame on the media.

"I can confirm that until now there is no corona related death in [Pakistan]. Geo report about a death in GB is incorrect. The coronavirus test of the patient is -ve. I request media reporters that in rush to break the news first, please don’t misreport. Check your facts twice," he tweeted.

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