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Virus screening kits arrive, amid Coronavirus threat

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health, Dr Zafar Mirza recently stated that thousands of testing kits had been arranged from multiple sources and hoped that no more kits would be required in future.

In a positive sign, all the seven suspected patients of novel coronavirus (NCV) were finally found to be completely safe on a day testing kits for the deadly disease reached Pakistan, as per sources.

“Just after getting the kits we decided to test all seven suspects who were kept in isolation wards of hospitals in Karachi, Multan and other cities,” he said. “Fortu­nately tests of all seven patients were found negative due to which we can surely say that there is no suspect of NCV in Pakistan.”

The testing kits would be provided wherever they were requi­red, Mirza said, adding that now the National Institute of Health had become self-sufficient in diagnosis. Earlier samples were being sent abroad to confirm if suspected patients were infected with NCV or not.

It is pertinent to mention here that an outbreak of NCV has been observed recently in Wuhan city of China. As the mortality rate, in confirmed cases, was around three per cent so panic has been triggered across the globe. There were around 500 Pakistani students in Wuhan but the government has decided not to bring them back to avoid chances of transmission of virus in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Pakistan has provided technical guidance and tools for screening along with laboratory support for management of NCV cases at federal and provincial levels, according to an official statement.

Moreover the organisation has provided infrared thermo guns which measure the temperature without touching the individual to identify suspected cases of novel coronavirus.

“We are very much impressed and appreciate preparedness for NCV in Pakistan by government of Pakistan and Ministry of Health and WHO is continuously committed to support the government in responding to this public health emergency of international concern,” said Dr Palitha Mahipala, WHO representative in Pakistan.

According to the statement, the WHO has also provided personal protective equipment, including surgical gloves, masks, hand sanitisers, gowns, goggles, liquid soap and other supplies to the Directorate of Central Health Establishment in the Ministry of National Health Services. The WHO has established a strategic health operations and communication room for emergency response.

In addition, the WHO has also provided information materials like flyers and leaflets to raise awareness of air travellers and general masses about the prevention and control of coronavirus.

By providing personal protective equipment and technical guidance, the WHO was also supporting establishment of isolation wards at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, Islamabad; Services Hospital, Lahore; Allama Iqbal Memorial Hospital, Sialkot; Nishtar Hospital, Multan; Benazir Shaheed Hospital, Rawalpindi; Jinnah Postgraduate Medical University, Karachi; Khyber Medical University, Peshawar; DHQ Hospital, Gwadar; and Sheikh Zaid Hospital, Quetta.

The WHO was collaborating with the health ministry for establishment of health desks at the ports of entry (PoE), at Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Quetta airports, to equip them with skilled human resource and information material to provide information to the travellers about safety measures on how to protect themselves and others. Screening of travellers in the areas along the border with China would start once the border was open, Mirza informed.

The WHO was also facilitating acquisition of laboratory testing material and helping in PoE assessment for preparedness for case management, infection prevention and control along with surveillance, told Zafar Mirza.

According to the statement, under the leadership of Dr Zafar Mirza, the WHO was closely working with the health ministry to make timely interventions keeping in view the fast-changing situation. A high-level committee with senior most inter-sectoral and provincial representation has also been constituted for a national executive oversight. The Emergency Operations Centre has been activated in the National Institute of Health, which is the focal point for international health regulations in Pakistan.

-MN Report

February 3, 2020

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