- Delays combined with inefficiency
Only days back Health SAPM Dr Zafar Mirza had assured that he was personally monitoring the screening system at the country’s airports to ensure that no coronavirus patient managed to enter Pakistan undetected. Later he claimed that a strong mechanism had been put in place at all the airports to ensure screening of the passengers coming from abroad. The Karachi patient infected with coronavirus, who had started showing symptoms during the flight from Iran, was cleared despite Dr Mirza’s claims along with the rest of the planeload of passengers. Ironically this happened after Iran had already reported its first cases of coronavirus. Did the new state-of-the-art scanners at the airport fail to work? Did the staff work carelessly? Were only the passengers coming from China being monitored despite the virus having spread to 47 more countries?
As a prominent member of the Pakistan Medical Association commented, the patient from Karachi “roamed around freely in the city for almost a week during which he must have interacted with a lot of people.” According to the Sindh CM, around 1,500 people have been identified who have travelled [to Sindh] from Iran in the past few days. This happened because the government waited for four days after reports from Iran about the coronavirus outbreak before it decided to close the Pak-Iran border. The delays by the government and the failure to keep a proper check on the incoming passengers amounted to opening the floodgates to the deadly viral disease. The issue is not confined to Karachi, as another patient belonging to Skardu, who had returned from Iran, was admitted to a hospital in Islamabad.
While one agrees with Dr Mirza that one must not panic, one also expects the government to take timely decisions, conduct training of the personnel deputed to airports, supervise the detection teams, and purchase monitoring equipment which is in working condition. The government had enough time to prepare to meet the challenge since late December when China reported the virus to WHO.
There are signs of the government’s negligence starting to hurt the economy and effect the common man. The PSX index dropped over 1,400 points to a three-month low after Pakistan confirmed the two coronavirus cases. Profiteering has sent masks out of the reach of many.