–Says utmost vigilance on points of entry, govt fully prepared, no need for panic or alarm
ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza has said that there is no confirmed case of Novel Corona Virus in Pakistan; the reports about cases in Multan are inaccurate. As per standard guidelines and procedure, any traveller from China having flu-like symptoms has to be isolated and monitored. He said that the patients being referred to by some have no serious symptoms- are responding to treatment and improving.
In an official statement on Sunday, Dr Zafar Mirza assured the people that the government is closely monitoring the situation and all necessary measures are being taken to screen all travellers from China and provide hospital-care where required. Hee said that Thermo Scanners and Thermo Guns have been provided to well trained health staff at airports in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad to screen all passengers. Separately, a specially dedicated team is assigned for screening passengers arriving via flights from China.
Since Friday, however, China has closed its outbound direct flights to Pakistan due to Chinese spring festival. According to the current schedule, South China Airline flights will resume from 29 January and China Airlines flights will resume from 3 February.
Utmost vigilance is being maintained and an Emergency Operation Cell (EOC) in the Federal Health Ministry is monitoring the situation round the clock. Instructions have been given to all major hospitals to make arrangements to receive possible cases and provide the necessary care.
“We have established contact with all Provincial Chief Ministers, Provincial Health Departments; relevant ministries including interior dealing with immigration, Aviation Division, NDMA to ensure there is seamless coordination and that our efforts are synergised, timely and effective,” said Dr Mirza.
Considering that there will be heavy influx of travellers from China after 8th of February 2020 when the celebrations of Chinese New Year conclude, all relevant authorities have been asked to carry out robust surveillance for screening at the points of entry at Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi airports alongside seaports and land crossings, raising public awareness and ensuring hospital preparedness for management of potential cases.
“I am personally monitoring the situation and we are meeting every 48 hours with heads of hospitals, health institutions and all relevant departments to review the situation and take necessary measures for optimal level of preparedness and mitigation in the event we have a suspected case. We are establishing a helpline to be functional from Wednesday for information on the disease and to respond to queries. There is absolutely no cause for panic or alarm. People need to take simple precautions for prevention against common flu like covering the nose and mouth while coughing and sneezing, frequent hand washing for 20 seconds with soap, avoiding close contact with sick people, avoid contact with animals, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands,” added Dr Mirza.
Those who have or a person near them have travelled to or from China, within the last 14 days and developed suggestive symptoms including unexplained fever, cough or breathing difficulty, should seek medical attention.
2019 Novel Coronavirus as it is referred to is a new respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan, Hebei Province of China. The facility to confirm the new virus through a laboratory test is only available in a few countries of the world. However, the National Institute of Health in Islamabad is fully equipped to isolate corona viruses closely related to the Novel Coronavirus and thus the virus can be confirmed by excluding other types of Coronaviruses.
“We are in touch with Chinese authorities and kits to test for Novel Coronavirus will be received in a few days shared the SAPM. Novel corona virus (2019-nCoV) with animal origin identified as the cause of this outbreak has to date caused at least 2000 cases and 56 deaths in China,” Dr Mirza said.
Other countries including Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and United States, France and Australia have also reported few confirmed cases with travel history to China.
There is no vaccination or specific antiviral treatment for this respiratory illness. Currently, there is no recommendation for restricting international travel or trade.