–PM’s aide on health says govt to bridge human resources deficiency in 2-3 days, designate certain hospitals for coronavirus patients
–Mirza says Taftan border reopened after extensive review, air travel restrictions to be lifted at appropriate time
ISLAMABAD: Two more cases of coronavirus surfaced in Karachi and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) on Saturday, taking the total number of such cases to four.
Addressing a press conference along with Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Media Firdous Ashiq Awan, PM’s health adviser Dr Zafar Mirza said one of the patients was from Karachi while the other was from Islamabad and urged the masses to refrain from panicking.
He said that the first two patients of the virus “are recovering and one of them will soon be discharged” and added that their clinical treatment was satisfactory and according to the guidelines of the health ministry.
The presser was held on the sidelines of a government meeting held to discuss the control and prevention of coronavirus with a focus on two themes: scaling up efforts and increasing coordination.
On Wednesday, Pakistan confirmed the first two cases of the highly contagious virus in the same areas mentioned above and both of them had travel histories to Iran.
Speaking about the meeting, the PM’s aide said: “We discussed how to reinforce our points of entry, our airports, and land routes so that any person returning from another country who has symptoms of coronavirus will be screened right there and will be sent to isolation rooms in hospitals.”
Referring to the temporary reopening of the Pakistan-Iran border at Taftan, he said: “We have a plan at Taftan for returning pilgrims. I have visited it myself … this was a very effective visit because we cooperated with the Iranian government to make decisions [and] we have started receiving our pilgrims from there.”
He added that the Pakistani government’s review of the situation is ongoing and air travel restrictions between the two countries will be lifted when “we feel it is alright”.
Mirza also said that an extensive review has been conducted to ascertain whether the country has enough hospitals and people to deal with a situation if many people start testing positive for coronavirus. “We have shared the numbers with all provincial governments of the people needed to be deputed at the borders, at crossing points.
“We will bridge the deficiency of human resources in 2-3 days. We also decided to dedicate certain hospitals to coronavirus so we can keep patients and suspected patients in isolation there.”
A three-member advisory committee has also been formed comprising representatives from the health ministry, the information ministry and the Inter-Services Public Relations, the military’s media wing, that will address people’s questions about the virus and inform them of measures to protect themselves from the infection. The body will come up with a national awareness plan for the people, he added.
“We are bringing the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) on board and asked them to build stockpiles [of protective gear] and import if needed so that we can keep a check on prices. Local production is also being started in this regard.”
The SAPM added that “not everybody has to wear a mask … and when needed they should use the correct mask.”
He said an artificial demand had been created for masks. “If people understand when they need to wear the mask, that will have an effect on its demand and supply.
“If two ways are adopted, it (coronavirus) can be controlled very effectively. The first is responsibility; if you know a person who has recently returned from a country that has reported cases of coronavirus and they have symptoms, I urge you to call 1166.” He also advised people not to go to crowded places. “Precautions and responsibility are needed more than panic,” he concluded.
Separately, Balochistan’s health officials on Saturday said that at least 252 pilgrims that entered Pakistan via Taftan border were cleared after screening. According to Levies officials, the pilgrims were cleared after they were screened by the health officials.