Citizens stand outside the isolation ward of Pims to get themselves checked for coronavirus on Thursday. — Photo by Mohammad Asim
Citizens stand outside the isolation ward of Pims to get themselves checked for coronavirus on Thursday. — Photo by Mohammad Asim

ISLAMABAD/RAWALPINDI: With the confirmation of the first coronavirus patient at Pakistan Institute of Medial Sciences (Pims), respiratory masks have disappeared from the markets due to high demand and the decision to allow their export and other personal protection equipment (PPE).

A Pakistani citizen tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday and was shifted to the isolation ward of Pims. In a notification, the deputy commissioner said following the confirmation of two coronavirus cases in Pakistan, shopkeepers and vendors were advised against all kinds of hoarding and profiteering of safety masks and to ensure their availability.

On the other hand, National Institute of Health (NIH) Executive Director (ED) Maj Gen Dr Aamer Ikram advised people not to panic and suggested that they should make their own masks by following the videos available on social media. On Thursday, there was a concern among patients and even among Pims staff as they feared the virus could spread. As many as 10,000 patients visit the hospital daily.

A doctor at Pims, requesting not to be quoted, said around 15 citizens reached the hospital on Thursday fearing that they were suffering from coronavirus.

District administration has imposed Section 144 to check overpricing of masks

“We told them that they should not panic as every person, having flu, does not have coronavirus. Currently, four patients are admitted to the hospital out of which one is confirmed and the rest are suspect cases,” he said.

Talking to Dawn, Pims Media Coordinator Dr Waseem Khawaja confirmed that patients were concerned about the spread of the disease, but he advised them not to worry.

“A separate hospital can be set up for suspected cases. But we are also prepared and can deal with the situation,” he said.

Meanwhile, Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Hamza Shafqaat has imposed Section 144 to check overpricing of masks.

On the other hand, Pakistan Young Pharmacist Association has written a letter to the Supreme Court chief justice to take suo motu notice of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan’s (Drap) decision of allowing export of respiratory masks.

On Jan 30, Drap had imposed a ban on export of masks and other equipment, but on Feb 8 five companies were allowed to export.

NIH Executive Director Dr Ikram said there was no need to panic as Pims was a state-of-the-art hospital.

“There are isolation wards due to which virus cannot be transferred from one block/ward to another. Moreover, doctors, nurses, sweepers and even drivers of the ambulances have been trained to deal with the suspected cases and patients,” he said.

“It is a fact that there is panic among residents of the twin cities and on Thursday I got a number of calls in which people inquired whether it was alright for them to go watch Pakistan Super League match. I told them that they should go to the stadium. I also told them that they should not panic even if they do not get masks. Those who want to wear masks, at any cost, can make their own masks by following a number of videos available on social media,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rawalpindi Medical University (RMU) has already completed training of 30 doctors, nurses and paramedical staff to run quarantine in Rawalpindi Institute of Urology and Kidney Centre.

For the management of patients, a 20-bed ward and six-bed High Dependency Unit had been established in BBH and it was declared the focal hospital to deal with coronavirus patients.

Experts informed the staff about the virus and said in Pakistan, the virus will not spread through animals but through human to human contact.

They advised people to maintain personal hygiene and use properly cooked food.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2020