Senior US diplomat Alice Wells on Tuesday expressed her condolences at the passing of Dr Osama Riaz, who lost his life while treating coronavirus patients.
In a statement, Wells also saluted “all the brave medical workers across South and Central Asia who are risking their lives to help the sick and keep us safe.”
“Saddened to hear of the death of Dr Usama Riaz, who was on the frontlines of the fight against coronavirus in Pakistan. The US stands with you,” she said.
Dr Riaz, a young physician, became the first Pakistani doctor to die of COVID-19 on Sunday after contracting the virus while screening pilgrims returning from Iran.
According to media, Dr Riaz was part of a 10-member team of doctors tasked with screening patients returning from Iran via Taftan. He later started providing medical services to suspected patients in isolation centres established for them in Gilgit.
The doctor’s colleagues told media that Dr Riaz had ignored his health and served the patients till late night as the patients had never been provided any services before.
Dr Shah Zaman, a senior member of the Health Department and focal person of the GB government for coronavirus, told The News by phone that he had personally met Dr Riaz at 11pm on Thursday.
“After I met him at the screening centre, he later finished duty and went home. He was perfectly fine at that time and didn’t make any complaints. However, when his wife tried to wake him the next day he did not respond and when they checked, he was unconscious,” Dr Zaman said.
Dr Riaz was then shifted to the Provincial Headquarters Hospital (PHQ) in Gilgit city where he was put on a ventilator and given a swab test, which confirmed him as a positive case.
According to officials in Gilgit, they conducted a second swab to confirm, which also came back as positive for the virus. Officials said they had learnt two days ago that his brain stopped functioning but since it was a sensitive issue and could have serious repercussions, they wanted to utilise all their resources to save his life.
According to the doctors in the PHQ, they even sent tests to the National Institute of Health in Islamabad to satisfy the family.
They removed him from the ventilator on Sunday night and announced him dead. Dr Zaman said they had constituted a board to investigate other aspects of his complications.
The information department of the region declared the doctor a martyr and said he will officially be remembered as a national hero.