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LAHORE: Chief Minister Usman Buzdar called a crucial meeting on Sunday (today) on the reports of the emergence of a polio case in Lahore and presence of the virus in environment.

The ministers of the health, environment, housing, education and information departments, their secretaries, the Lahore and Faisalabad divisions’ commissioners and deputy commissioners will attend the meeting. Prime Minister’s Focal Person for Polio Eradication Babar Bin Atta will also attend the meeting.

The meeting was called after the chief minister was informed about the potential threat of virus to the provincial capital.

“We have briefed the chief minister on possible factors behind the persistent presence of the poliovirus in the environment of the provincial capital,” Mr Atta told Dawn.

He said the CM called the meeting on Sunday (today) to evaluate the performance of the health department officials and the related departments besides devising strategy to combat the crippling disease.

“One thing we must accept is that the practice of concealing facts should be discouraged to fight polio,” said the focal person.

He said the Outfall pumping station had been reporting presence of the poliovirus for the last 11 months or so which has been declared a dangerous sign, putting health of children at grave risk.

“The chief minister has been informed that the health department wrongly claims that the Outfall pumping station virus comes from other areas,” he said, adding that the time had come to accept faults and take bold decisions.

He lamented that the presence of the poliovirus in the sewer of main Outfall pumping station was a dangerous sign as the water from four towns of the city falls here.

“And the constant presence of the virus in the heart of the city and the emergence of a polio case shows there is something wrong at the level of the health department planning,” Mr Atta said.

He said one of the major factors behind the circulation of the virus was the lack of supervisory role by the incumbent chain of command.

Mr Atta said in Saturday’s meeting the health officials claimed 99 per cent coverage to the children.

According to an international pattern or standard, the chances of presence of poliovirus stand at almost zero per cent after persistent coverage of polio doses to above 95pc target population of the children. In the rest of the three provinces, he said, the polio eradication task was assigned to the senior officers from the DMG cadre which has yielded positive results.

While Punjab is the only province where this function was being performed by a health officer who is currently holding multiple other assignments, he said.

This matter will also come under discussion in Sunday’s meeting, he added.

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2019