SINDH Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho visits the airport on Wednesday.—PPI
SINDH Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho visits the airport on Wednesday.—PPI

KARACHI: Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said on Wednesday that there were some weaknesses in screening of passengers, including pilgrims, at the Jinnah Terminal and Taftan, as a result a child after being cleared from quarantine at Taftan was tested positive in Quetta.

“This shows that the screening system is weak at Taftan and the child declared as a coronavirus patient at Quetta might have infected the quarantine area,” he said.

Presiding over the 14th meeting of the task force on coronavirus here at the CM House, the chief minister urged the provincial health department to make best arrangements for screening of passengers at Karachi airport.

He asked the Balochistan government to strengthen its screening of pilgrims at Taftan.

People visiting the stadium to see the PSL match today cautioned

The meeting was told that there were 13 coronavirus cases in Sindh, of whom eight had travel history of Syria, three of Dubai and as many of Iran.

The health department had got 26 samples of coronavirus tested on Wednesday and all of them were declared negative.

It was stated in the meeting that the provincial government had conducted 187 tests of suspected coronavirus patients, of whom 173 were declared negative while 14 tested positive.

The chief minister was told that a person was found unconscious near the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre and he had a passport in his pocket which showed that the passenger had returned from Iran by air on Wednesday. The meeting was told that the patient was hospitalised and his sample was sent for lab test.

The CM said that the episode showed that screening arrangement at the Jinnah Term­inal needed to be made effective. However, he said the passenger might have had some other health challenges rather than coronavirus.

The chief secretary told the CM that he had posted 50 health workers at the airport. He said they would be performing duties in three shifts.

Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho said that she with her team visited the airport and made necessary arrangements for developing quarantine facility outside the immigration section in 25 cubicles.

She said the Civil Aviation Authority had agreed to develop a quarantine facility at the airport and the provincial health department and the Indus Hospital would provide technical support and human resource.

The CM was told that 142 suspected virus carriers were still in quarantine at their homes, of whom 34 would complete their mandatory isolation on Thursday, 66 on Friday.

The meeting was also informed that 43 of the 59 passengers belonging to different districts of the province had been tracked and 36 of them were quarantined.

The CM was also told that the public hospitals shared the data of 1,874 patients of pneumonia and flu while the private hospitals furnished a list of 702 patients.

The health department said that they were taking necessary action on the details provided by the public and private hospitals. It was also disclosed that 27 samples of severe pneumonia cases had been sent for lab test.

Syed Murad Ali Shah said that the coronavirus child patient diagnosed in Quetta was released from the quarantine of Taftan, adding that it meant the patient might have affected other people in the quarantine there.

He directed the CS to talk to the Balochistan authorities for checking the patients in quarantine at Taftan.

The CM decided that the 850 pilgrims arriving from Taftan at Sukkur would be tested. “I would arrange an aircraft to lift the samples of all the incoming pilgrims en bloc from Sukkur and bring them to Karachi for test,” he said.

The CM asked the media to air public service messages and urged the people not to go to the stadium to witness the PSL match if they had symptoms of pneumonia, influenza and chest congestion.

The police department told the CM that 2,500 policemen would perform their duty on PSL matches and the police were ready with their arrangements.

Educational institutions

The chief minister also discussed the issue of whether to open or keep educational institutions closed with the participants in the meeting.

It was pointed out that the examinations were just at hand, therefore, the educational institutions be allowed to start working. The participants said that in Sindh there was no secondary case and all the cases of the coronavirus were “imported”, therefore schools be opened.

The CM directed the education and health departments to prepare an advisory for the educational institutions and the parents so that the children of the people having a travel history should stay away from the institutions for a certain period of quarantine or completion of medical investigations.

The issue of opening educational institutions or keeping them closed would be discussed further on Thursday (today).

The meeting was attended by provincial ministers and advisers Nisar Khuhro, Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho, Saeed Ghani, Syed Nasir Shah, Murtaza Wahab, Chief Secretary Mumtaz Shah, Commissioner of Karachi Iftikhar Shallwani and others.

Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2020