RAWALPINDI: The Punjab government on Thursday ordered the establishment of quarantine facilities for suspected COVID-19 patients in the Fatima Jinnah Women University (FJWU) and the Pir Mehr Ali Shah - Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi that could accommodate up to 500 people in the event of an emergency.

Commissioner retired Capt Mohammad Mehmood issued the directions during a meeting at his office to review arrangements to deal with the spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19.

The meeting was attended by Deputy Commissioner retired Capt Anwarul Haq, Rawalpindi Medical University (RMU) Vice Chancellor Dr Mohammad Umer, District Health Authority CEO Dr Suhail Ahmed and the deputy commissioners of Attock, Chakwal and Jhelum.

Mr Mehmood said 100 suspected patients could be accommodated at the Rawalpindi Institute of Urology, while two-room isolation wards have been set up in seven tehsil headquarters hospitals (THQ) and eight rural health unitsthat can accommodate more than 1,000 people.

He also directed the deputy commissioners of all four districts to ensure that the standard operating procedures (SOP) issued by the Punjab government and RMU are implemented.

Centres could accommodate up to 500 people; three quarantine centres established in Taxila, Fatehjang and Hassanabdal

“It is our responsibility to take measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. People should not listen to rumours and [should] follow the advice of the Punjab government,” he said.

While briefing the meeting, Dr Umer said there have not been any coronavirus cases reported from the Rawalpindi division so far.

He said medical superintendents in all three hospitals in the city have been given registration forms to record the suspected and confirmed number of cases.

At present, Holy Family Hospital, Benazir Bhutto Hospital and District Headquarters Hospital have 42 beds in isolation wards, 65 in infectious diseases wards and 27 in high dependency units.

Mr Mehmood said people must not leave their homes unnecessarily, as the virus can spread from human-to-human contact.

He said that a divisional control room has been established at the commissioner’s office to monitor the situation in the four districts and reports will be sent to the provincial government every day. Deputy commissioners should also ensure that control rooms are set up in their offices, he said.

He added that gatherings and public meetings are banned, and people should not visit markets without an urgent reason. Precautionary measures will be taken and personal hygiene should be maintained, he said.

Taxila

The administration, with assistance from the health and education departments, has set up quarantine facilities in Taxila, Fatehjang and Hassanabdal to tackle the spread of COVID-19 in their respective cities.

Quarantine centres have been set up for suspected patients in the Government College of Technology in Taxila, Kheri Morat Small Dam in Fatehjang and the THQ Hospital in Hassanabdal.

The assistant commissioner reviewed the situation at the college in Taxila, where temporary arrangements to quarantine suspected patients have been made, and said such sites can be used if needed.

He said the local administration has taken comprehensive precautionary measures in view of the threat of the coronavirus.

The Rawalpindi Waste Management Companyis on alert and cooperating with the district administration, he said. He also urged citizens to pay attention to cleanliness, as individuals can play a vital role in this regard. He said people should take precautions rather than panicking.

The coronavirus can be defeated by adopting meaningful measures and the public should adopt protective measures, he said.

Deputy District Officer Health Dr Sara Qadeer said that there are five pilgrims who have returned from Iran and are under observation at the quarantine facility in D.G. Khan. They will be screened upon their arrival in Taxila, and their samples will be taken again, she said.

“If necessary, they will be quarantined again here at the facility established in the city,” she added.

Hassanabdal Assistant Commissioner Adnan Anjum Raja told the media that the local administration has decided to set up a quarantine facility, a 17-bed isolation centre in the THQ Hospital, and plans to set up four more.

He said these wards will accommodate people who may have been exposed to a communicable disease but do not have a confirmed medical diagnosis.

In Fatehjang, the administration has set up a quarantine centre at Kheri Morat Small Dam to facilitate suspected and affected patients, especially those coming from Iran.

Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2020