Since December last year, the coronavirus has spread nearly all over the world, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths as countries ramp up testing capacities to identify patients and bring the disease under control.
Members of the medical fraternity insist that that the war against Covid-19 can only be won by increasing testing capacity, isolating infected individuals and equipping the healthcare staff with proper protective gear.
“We have a simple message for all countries: test, test, test.”
These are the words of Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organisation.
To help people who feel like they might have the symptoms, Dawn.com reached out to health officials to understand the process through which one can be tested for the virus for free.
Here's what you need to know:
A patient suspecting they are manifesting symptoms of coronavirus should visit a government designated public or private hospital. According to National Institute of Health (NIH) official Dr Mumtaz Ali Khan, all district headquarter hospitals and tertiary care hospitals across the country are equipped to collect samples for coronavirus.
At the hospital, a doctor will check the patient for symptoms to determine if he or she may have coronavirus, according to NIH Executive Director Maj Gen Aamir Ikram.
The patient will be asked a set of questions regarding their travel history as well as of those they have been in close contact with.
If the doctor rules out suspicion of coronavirus, the patient will be sent back.
If the doctor comes to the conclusion that the patient is manifesting symptoms, a swab of their saliva is taken and sent to one of the designated facilities that have coronavirus testing equipment. This testing will be done free of cost, said Ikram.
Other government facilities around the country are also testing free of cost. However, some private labs are also independently testing individuals for the virus against a fee.
In addition to these facilities, citizens can visit their nearest public tertiary healthcare centre or district headquarter hospital for screening.
The federal government in its guidelines to provinces said that patients showing mild symptoms of the virus would be isolated at their homes while only those requiring medical help would be treated at hospitals.
According to standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued by the federal health ministry, the move to isolate these patients at home would help "ensure control of the disease and reduce the burden on the healthcare system".
The guidelines advise patients to limit contact with other people and maintain a distance of six feet if they do need to go out. They also advise patients to take all the necessary precautions and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces they touch.
However, patients are advised to visit hospitals if their symptoms worsen.
"You should not hide this disease at all. The sooner you get help, the safer you will be," said Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho, appealing to people — especially those who have underlying health conditions such as diabetes, heart or kidney problems — to "immediately" come to hospital as soon as they get ill.