If the virus spreads much further, Pakistan's entire healthcare system may collapse. In Karachi, a port city of about 20 million, there are only 600 beds in intensive care rooms. There are 1,700 fans across the country, and last week, there were only 15,000 N95 masks for doctors and nurses, authorities said.
"We don't even have rabies vaccinations. How can we deal with thousands of people who will come here for coronavirus treatment?" Said a doctor at a state hospital, who also complained that they had not been provided with protective equipment. As a government employee, the doctor was unable to speak to the media and requested anonymity to voice his concerns.
In February, it became clear that Pakistan was facing a major coronavirus outbreak, as the disease emerged in Iran, which quickly became an epicenter. Thousands of Pakistanis visit Iran every month for work or religious pilgrimage, and the countries share a long border.
Authorities closed the border, but hundreds of Pakistanis managed to return anyway, either by diverting through Afghanistan to cross the border there, or by bribing guards to return, witnesses and officials said.
To prevent thousands more from crossing illegally, officials decided to quarantine them in Taftan, a border city. But the conditions were so bad, tight and dirty, with the rapid spread of the virus, that the people held there rioted and burned part of the camp.
"We had no adequate food, no detection of coronavirus in anyone," said Syed Haider Ali, a student who had been quarantined in Taftan.
"It was not an attack on the camp, but an attempt to rescue us from the similar treatment we were receiving," he said. "We asked the government to treat us like humans, but it fell on deaf ears."