LAHORE: Pakistan reported its first casualty due to the novel coronavirus on Tuesday, health ministry officials said as the number of positive cases of the COVID-19 infections rose to 237 in the country.

The first fatality was reported from Lahore. Meanwhile, Sindh has 155 positive cases, followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with 15, Baluchistan 10, Gilgit-Baltistan 5, Islamabad 2 and Punjab 6, officials said.

"One COVID-19 patient who was brought from Hafizabad, some 150 km from Lahore, died here on Tuesday," Punjab health minister Yasmin Rashid told a press conference on Tuesday.

She said five new cases of the coronavirus have emerged in Punjab and as many in Sindh raising the total number of the COVID-19 infections to 193, including 155 in Sindh province.

In a statement, the national command and control centre has also confirmed the first death in the country.

The patient was admitted at the Mayo Hospital in Lahore. He came here from Muscat on March 15. He was tested positive and shifted to Mayo Hospital where he died on Tuesday.

Rashid said since all educational institutions, shrines, cinemas etc have been closed to stop the spread of the virus, the government has been in contact with clerics to decide to close worship places. The government, she said, has launched a crackdown on hoarders in the wake of panic buying.

The health minister also said the patients of coronavirus may increase substantially in Punjab as some 780 suspected patients have been kept in quarantine at a university in Dera Ghazi Khan and most of them show typical symptoms of the disease.

She said these suspected patients (all of them pilgrims returning from Iran), including women, entered Pakistan from Iran through the Taftan border with a history of flu, fever and cough.

On young doctors' threat that they would not attend the patients because of non-availability of medical kits, Rashid said: "Today we have provided 25,000 kits at Punjab hospitals to fight this disease."

A high-alert caution has been issued in DG Khan, some 350 km from Lahore, while several health department teams were dispatched to the southern city to isolate the patients.

According to the officials, the Iranian authorities have kept all these suspected virus carriers on the same premises in sheer violation of the criteria of the World Health Organisation (WHO), exposing them to greater risk of contracting the virus.

"They have been shaking hands, hugging each other and even sharing towels and kitchen items during their stay in Iran despite the fact that some of them were having strong symptoms of the coronavirus,” the officials said, adding these 780 suspected patients belonged to various cities of Punjab.

Among other things, Pakistan has decided to close down the western border with Afghanistan and Iran. It also ordered the closure of all education institutions in Pakistan till April 5 in view of the virus outbreak.

The virus that first emerged in China's Wuhan city in the Hubei province in December last year has spread to 155 countries, infected 182,406 people and has claimed 7,154 lives, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus tracker.

China remains the hardest-hit with 80,881 infections and 3,226 deaths by the end of Monday. After China, Italy and Iran are the two worst-affected countries.