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PMA and civil society demands random testing for coronavirus

KARACHI: The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) and representatives of the civil society recently expressed concern on the confused policies of the federal and provincial governments regarding the COVID-19 in Pakistan.

These reservations were expressed by Dr S M Qaisar Sajjad, Secretary-General, PMA Centre, Faisal Edhi, Head of the Edhi Foundation, Dr Qazi M Wasiq, Treasurer, PMA Centre, Ms Uzma Noorani, Co-Chairperson, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Dr Usman Mako, President-Elect, PMA Sindh, and others in a joint press conference held at PMA House Karachi.

Member, National Commission for Human Rights Pakistan, Ms Anis Haroon, General-Secretary, PMA Karachi, Dr Abdul Ghafoor Shoro, Resident Director, Aurat Foundation, Ms Mehnaz Rehman, and Member, Public Interest Law Association of Pakistan, Anwar Kashif Mumtaz, were also present on occasion.

Speakers said that the corona situation in our country is worsening day by day, and the number of corona patients and death toll due to the virus is increasing rapidly. According to the official report, 213,470 people have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 4395 people have died so far. It is just because no uniform policy exists in Pakistan to control the spread of the coronavirus.

They said that the federal and provincial governments are not on the same page. People are confused due to the rivalry of our governments. People only take their patients to hospitals when their condition approaches death. When the patient’s condition worsens at the hospitals or the patient dies, the attendants start damaging hospital property and brutally attack the medics.

They further said that there is panic in society. Beds are not available in hospitals, so; people are keeping their patients at home. The Federal Government informed the masses about different drugs that are helpful for the coronavirus treatment via press conferences and tweets.

Similarly, the Government also informed the people that oxygen and pulse oximeters are needed to manage and monitor the patient. Now, people have hoarded all these medicines and equipment, which is causing a shortage and price hike in the market.

Government officials say COVID-19 is comparable to the common cold and flu and is just a grade-C virus. It is not very serious as more people die in road traffic accidents as compared to corona. Other officials say that the coronavirus has 19 points, i.e., it is called COVID-19.

“If the Federal Government does not want to impose a lockdown in the country, it should strictly implement SOPs throughout the country. There is no concept of smart lockdown in the world. You can impose a smart lockdown, only when the number of cases goes down,” they added.

The PMA believes that during the smart lockdown, the Government should collect the data (age, sex, co-morbidities) of the people living in the locked areas and conduct random testing for the virus. The world model to control the COVID-19 is a lockdown. The countries which followed this model and implemented strict lockdown are now lifting the lockdown because they have controlled the situation. We ignored it and did not implement even after advice from the WHO. We are now facing the consequences of our mistakes.

According to government officials, the number of corona cases is decreasing in the country, but it is not because of the smart lockdown; it is just because we have reduced testing for the coronavirus. Our corona testing capacity is not up to the mark. We should have 25,000 tests per day testing capacity in each province. People have been left with no option other than to go to private labs.

The Government should fix the rate of corona testing, hospital charges, and consultation charges. The Government should also not allow the sale of any medicines or health-related items without a prescription from a qualified doctor.

More than 3000 healthcare workers are in isolation after testing positive for corona. As the burden of disease on hospitals increases, we are facing a shortage of health care workers. Doctors and paramedics are suffering the most because of this situation. Till now, 60 doctors and paramedics have succumbed to the coronavirus. After repeated demands for implementing a shuhada package and risk-allowance, nothing has been done in this regard, the PMA added.

People are in rage. There is revulsion in people for doctors. This is why we see incidents of violence against health providers in hospitals.

The PMA believes that we should follow the WHO; otherwise, the number of cases and deaths will increase. The PMA suggests strictly implementing SOPs during Eid ul Azha or be ready for another surge in cases like we faced after Ramadan.

The people of Karachi are very disturbed because of the lack of electricity coupled with consistently high temperatures. The KE should pity the people of Karachi and ensure the provision of an uninterrupted power supply. People are going through a difficult time due to the long hours of load shedding.

Faisal Edhi informed the media that they had conducted a study with the help of Mansoor Raza and Mashood Tariq. The study was done on 813 deaths in Karachi from 1 June 2020 to 27 June 2020. The study revealed that 70% of deaths were of people in the 45-70 age group.

The PMA and civil society members demanded a complete strict lockdown as per the advice of the WHO to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. A smart lockdown should be implemented with strict SOPs, and the Government should protect healthcare workers from the coronavirus and from the violent mob who attack healthcare workers in hospitals. Coronavirus testing should be done in the areas of lockdown, and proper data should also be recorded. The DRAP and Healthcare Commission should manage the panic situation in the country regarding the management of coronavirus. Treatment of all corona patients should be free of cost, even at private hospitals. No medicine or health-related items should be sold without the prescription of qualified medical practitioners. Load shedding should be seized until the COVID-19 pandemic is over to keep the people safe from the heatwave. No cattle markets should be established within the city, and all the established markets should follow all SOPs, they concluded.

-MN Report

July 3, 2020

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