ISLAMABAD: As Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa directed his commanders to help the civil administration tackle coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, the army said its medical facilities were ready to deal with the crisis.
“The COAS has directed all commanders to take maximum necessary measures to assist civil administration for safety and well-being of the people of Pakistan,” the ISPR said in a statement.
Similar instructions were passed to commanders at the last meeting of the corps commanders held on March 12. In that meeting, the army chief had called for gearing up to support national efforts to counter this pandemic.
The national strategy for checking spread of coronavirus was finalised a day later (March 13) at a meeting of the National Security Committee, which among others was attended by the army chief. The strategy focused on restricting points of entry into the country and adopting social distancing measures. The government’s approach in dealing with the disease itself has been about identifying infected people, limiting their contact with others and tracing and monitoring their close contacts.
Pakistan has over the past few days witnessed a sharp spike in the number of confirmed patients, which on Tuesday topped 200 as compared to 52 at the start of the week. The first case was reported in the country on Feb 26. Many fear that the country could be headed for a full-blown outbreak.
There has, however, been little discussion about the state of preparedness of the health infrastructure to cope with the growing number of patients. There are worries that the decaying public health system in the country could be overwhelmed, if the number of coronavirus-hit people increases.
Government officials say that the response strategy to COVID-19 would evolve with the changing situation.
The ISPR statement, expressing readiness of the military’s health infrastructure to deal with the situation, said: “As part of the national effort and in line with decisions of National Security Committee taken on 13 March, all medical facilities of the armed forces are operationalised and geared up to meet any eventuality to deal with pandemic.”
The steps taken by the army include setting up of COVID-19 testing labs at military hospitals across the country and the central testing facility at the Armed Forces’ Institute of Pathology in Rawalpindi.
A help desk has also been set up at each military hospital for fast-track handling of the cases.
“Armed Forces of Pakistan are fully involved in assisting the government and provincial administrations to tackle the situation since the outbreak and duly vigilant of the developing situation post COVID-19,” the ISPR said.
Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2020