KP extends health emergency for three months

Updated 06 Mar 2020

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Men walk with face masks as a preventive measure along a sidewalk in Karachi, Pakistan on February 28. — Reuters/File
Men walk with face masks as a preventive measure along a sidewalk in Karachi, Pakistan on February 28. — Reuters/File

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government extended health emergency for three months in view of Coronavirus Disease 2019 outbreak after confirmation of five cases in the country and circulation of virus in the neighbouring China, Iran and Afghanistan.

The public health committee formed by the government to spearhead the preparedness work for prevention of COVID-19, invoked Public Health (Surveillance and Response) Act, 2017 on February 3 to be able to acquire medical supplies and other resources in speedy manner and put brakes on possible transmission of the virus, which hit the neighbouring China.

A notification, issued here on Thursday, said that emergency was extended till June 1. Officials said whenever emergency was declared by state, it relaxed the normal procedures of procurement and resource availability to help the relevant authorities to take quick measures as opposed to normal procedure that took longer to procure medicines, etc.

District Health Officer Dr Akram Shah said they had purchased personal protective equipments to safeguard health workers in the hospital against the infection.

“Declaration of emergency is a good step to strengthen preparations at district level. We have three suspected cases of COVID but all were isolated. They are negative,” he said.

Official says equipment bought to protect health workers from coronavirus

Dr Akram said that they had established an isolation and high dependency unit in Saidu Group of Hospitals. Our surveillance of people with travel history to China and Iran is ongoing. Now we have included even bus stands from Balochistan and Karachi in our surveillance network,” he said.

Meanwhile, authorities have stepped up arrangements to screen the people coming from Iran after completion of two-week incubation period next week. All measures in accordance with the SOPs starting from surveillance to case management have been in place.

New scanners at Bacha Khan International Airport and Torkham borders have been installed due to detection of cases in the neighbouring countries.

National Institute of Health (NIH) Islamabad has tested a total of 251 suspected patients, including 75 from Punjab, 59 Islamabad Capital Territory, 68 from Sindh, 24 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 14 from Gilgit-Baltistan and three from Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

Authorities said that they were worried about those people, who returned from abroad and went to their places across Pakistan. Saudi Arabia, Iran and China had a large number of Pakistanis, they said.

They said that there was risk of local transmission and potential cluster of patients, if any of the people coming from abroad was carrying virus. They said that quick temperature rise would help to add to the safety measures against COVID 2019.

The Ministry of Health has strengthened the Central Health Establishment, which has installed modern scanners at all seven airports as part of steps to contain the virus transmission to the population.

“An emergency core committee at NIH, Islamabad is monitoring the response activities throughout country,” officials said.

The World Health Organisation and reports by NIH suggest that the virus transmits rapidly due to human interaction and contacts. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa risks the epidemic due to its proximity with China.

Published in Dawn, March 6th, 2020