–453 pilgrims sent to their respective districts test positive for coronavirus
Despite the government’s tall claims of effectively managing the pilgrims who returned to the country through the Taftan border, it has emerged that negligence in properly quarantining those who tested positive for coronavirus resulted in the spread of infection to those who had initially tested negative for the virus.
According to a local news outlet, when the pilgrims reached Multan after spending 15 days in quarantine at Taftan, the district administration screened them for signs of infection and those who displayed symptoms of the virus were separated from others. Following repeated requests for the provision of testing kits, the kits were provided to the district administration, and after testing, 1,160 pilgrims who were initially suspected of being infected, were finally declared negative.
However, before sending them to their respective districts, the deputy commissioner insisted on testing them once again, but the district administration was directed to conduct tests of only five per cent of them. These tests resulted in three more pilgrims testing positive for COVID-19.
Later, on April 4, when the district administration arranged for them to be sent to their respective districts, orders came for testing everyone once again. The pilgrims, however, protested this decision and after expelling the staff from the quarantine centre, they locked their rooms. The district administration asked the police to control the situation, but upon their refusal, they had to call the army for negotiations. The pilgrims told the army officials that they had spent 15 days each in quarantine centres in Taftan and Multan and had been declared negative. Finally, both sides reached an agreement and their samples were collected and sent to a laboratory while the pilgrims were sent to their respective districts.
Meanwhile, the provincial government also directed the administration of those districts to make proper arrangements for quarantining the pilgrims upon their arrival, but the latter expressed concerns over the lack of facilities for treating positive patients, and highlighted the possibility that those who initially tested negative might have become infected while travelling. These suspicions were confirmed when 453 pilgrims who previously tested negative for the virus were found to be infected after reaching their respective districts. Quoting DC Khattak, the report stated that the pilgrims were not sent to their homes after reaching their respective districts, rather they were quarantined as per policy.
The report also revealed the other factors that allowed the virus to spread among the pilgrims. The police’s alleged refusal to perform their duties outside each block of the quarantine centre allowed the pilgrims to freely interact with each other. Similarly, the officials of the health department appeared to be reluctant to perform their duties inside the quarantine centre, leading to the deputy commissioner deploying his untrained staff, including volunteers of civil defence, to control the spread of the virus. Furthermore, the alleged refusal Nishtar Hospital to provide doctors and paramedics to serve inside the quarantine centre also deprived the pilgrims of proper medical attention.
The report also stated that when Nishtar Medical University Vice Chancellor Dr Mustafa Kamal Pasha was also contacted for a comment on the above-mentioned allegation, he told them their role was limited to conducting tests, whereas the primary and secondary health department was actually responsible for the quarantine centre. He also told the media outlet that they never refused to provide medical staff to the quarantine centre, rather they were never asked for such help.