KARACHI: The detection of two new cases of the coronavirus in Karachi on Saturday prompted the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) to ask the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) to come up with a strategy to prevent transmission of the virus at its crowded centres and the Sindh government to order closure of all shrines, wedding and cinema halls across the province for three weeks.
Urging Nadra to help prevent possible spread of the virus through its centres, the PMA said the places were visited by hundreds of people daily.
“As the government has banned public gatherings across the country to contain the spread of the virus, Nadra should come up with a plan to avoid long queues at its centres,” said Dr Qaiser Sajjad representing the PMA.
The authority, as a precautionary measure, should also provide a facility to its visitors to wash their hands with soap or clean them with a sanitizer before and after registration via the biometric system, he added.
He also shared concerns over reports that private laboratories were conducting the test for the coronavirus and the government should intervene in this matter.
I am sure people of this province will strengthen my hands in containing coronavirus: Murad
“It has come to our knowledge that some labs are privately doing the coronavirus test. Since it’s a sensitive test, the government shouldn’t allow any facility to do this test without getting a no-objection certificate from it,” he added.
The association suggested that the government strengthen its screening process put in place at the airports and border entry points of the country and that isolation and quarantine facilities should be improved and expanded.
“All isolation facilities should be equipped with ventilators. We already have an acute shortage of ventilators and it’s important given the fact that the infection can cause serious respiratory illness,” he said.
The new cases
Meanwhile, the Sindh Health Department has announced two new cases of coronavirus in Karachi, raising the total tally in the province to 17.
One of the two cases is a 38-year-old man who has arrived from Saudi Arabia a few days back. He was tested positive on Saturday.
“The other case is of a 20-year-old with no travel history. However, the patient’s father returned from the UK recently. The parents are now being tested for the virus.
“This brings the total number of cases to 17 in Sindh out of which two patients have recovered and sent home and 15 are under treatment,” said Meeran Yousuf, the media coordinator to the health minister.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah decided that educational process in madressahs and training institutions, marriage functions in clubs and public gatherings, including urs of saintly people would also remain suspended till April 5.
He directed the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) to take lead in developing taluka-wise data of the families so that in case of any emergency such as lockdown people could be reached for their food, medicines and other related supplies and help.
The chief minister issued these directives while presiding over the 17th meeting of the task force on the coronavirus and another meeting of the PDMA.
The chief minister said that since the novel coronavirus had become endemic, his government had no option but to take drastic measure to control the situation and save our people.
“It is high time to close the cinemas, marriage halls/lawns, shrines and urs programmes being observed there and even we can’t allow marriage function at clubs,” he said. “Yes, people can hold marriage functions at a limited level at their homes.”
Mr Shah directed the chief secretary to issue a notification for imposing a ban on such gatherings. “I am sure people of this province will strengthen my hands in containing coronavirus,” he said. “As and when situation is improved, we would reverse our decisions of banning social and religious gatherings.”
The chief minister said that the World Bank had agreed to divert its $10 million fund for its Sindh Resilience Project to Coronavirus Support Programme being launched by the Sindh government.
He directed the chief secretary to utilise the amount for purchase of ventilators, oxygen cylinders, beds and other gadgets. It was also pointed out that $25m was being made available by the World Bank to contain the coronavirus in Sindh.
The chief minister was told that 26 samples were sent for test and their results were awaited. The Sindh health department has conducted 282 tests, out of them 267 have been declared as negative while 16 have been diagnosed as positive.
At present, 31 pilgrims have been put in quarantine at their homes, of them 11 would complete their isolation period on March 18, two on March 16, five in March 17 and 12 on March 12.
The health secretary said that 3,300 passengers landed at Jinnah Terminal till late evening of Friday. “Seven of them were deemed as suspects and they have been kept in quarantine”, he added.
In another meeting of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority, the chief minister directed them to develop a taluka-wise data of families so that in case of any emergency or lockdown people could be helped and taken care of.
The chief minister directed the authorities to develop 35 field hospitals equipped with all the required gadgets and doctors and paramedical staff so that they could be sent at the place of need.
He also urged the PDMA to make arrangements for food, water and other items for quarantine centres.
The chief minister also decided to establish a quarantine centre in every district headquarters in the hospital buildings recently constructed but yet to be made functional.
He also directed the labour minister to hand over the labour apartments recently constructed in Kotri, Nooriabad, Hyderabad, Shaheed Benazirabad for setting up isolation centres.
The CM flew to a hospital located on the outskirts of the city where he visited a newly-established quarantine centre.
Prof Dr Bari of the Indus Hospital briefed the CM on the arrangements and the medical and paramedical staff posted there.
The chief minister through video link participated in a meeting of Prime Minister’s Special Assistant Dr Zafar Mirza held on Saturday at 4pm.
The chief minister told the PM’s special aide that the provincial government had generated funds from its own resources to cope with the situation, while the World Bank had also pledged financial assistance.
However, he said, the PDMA might need some equipment for which a list would be sent to National Disaster Management Authority.
The chief minister also imposed a ban on travelling of government officers. He directed the chief secretary to inform the federal government that the officers of Sindh be taken on video conference instead of inviting them to Islamabad.
Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2020