ISLAMABAD: The district administrations have involved the revenue department to trace some passengers who could not be declared suspects for the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) at airports upon their arrival from abroad but might develop the symptoms later.

Moreover, control rooms have been established in districts to contact every passenger after 24 to 48 hours to inquire if they had developed symptoms of the virus.

“Just after the outbreak of Covid-19 in China, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza had directed to check every person coming from abroad. Not only passengers were screened at airports but a standard operating procedure (SOP) was also made to inquire about their health after at least 24 hours or a maximum of 48 hours,” Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) spokesperson Sajid Shah told Dawn.

He said even Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) was involved to trace the passengers.

They were not declared suspects for coronavirus at airports but could develop symptoms later, says official

“As the incubation period of the virus is almost 14 days, it was decided to keep inquiring about the health of the passengers who had arrived from abroad. Same is the case with pilgrims who came through Taftan. Meetings were held on a daily basis and now the issue is being discussed at the level of National Coordination Committee on Covid-19,” Mr Shah said.

He claimed that compared to other countries the Covid-19 cases in Pakistan were fewer just because of the dedication and strategy made by the health ministry, armed forces and other stakeholders.

Meanwhile, a list of 133 people is being circulated on social media who arrived at Islamabad International Airport but could not be traced despite all efforts.

When contacted, Deputy Commissioner Rawalpindi Anwarul Haq agreed that it was difficult to trace some passengers.

“Passengers give their contact numbers at airports and we have deputed 20 officials at our control room who remain there in different shifts asking passengers if they had flu or any other Covid-19 symptoms. However, sometimes the given contact numbers are found switched off or not responding. In that case we send teams to the addresses mentioned on the Computerised National Identity Cards (CNICs) of the passengers.”

Mr Haq said in some cases the passengers were not available at the addresses mentioned in their CNICs.

“We tried to contact them at their permanent addresses and after failing got information from the revenue department about their relatives to trace them. Majority of the passengers were traced through the revenue department and just a few could not be located. However, efforts are still being made to trace them,” he said.

“We have received a number of lists each having 3,000 to 4,000 names and have contacted a majority of them either through the phone numbers or by sending teams to their houses,” Mr Haq said.

Deputy Commissioner Islamabad Hamza Shafqaat claimed that in Islamabad all the 12,457 people had been contacted and a compliance report submitted.

Published in Dawn, March 29th, 2020