2 doctors in twin cities test positive for Covid-19, hospital officials quarantined

Updated March 29, 2020

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Army and police personnel check residents in Rawalpindi’s Dhoke Paracha after the area was completely sealed on Saturday. — Online
Army and police personnel check residents in Rawalpindi’s Dhoke Paracha after the area was completely sealed on Saturday. — Online
  • Islamabad hostel sealed after resident tests positive for coronavirus
  • Three colonies in Rawalpindi sealed

RAWALPINDI/ISLAMABAD: Two doctors in the twin cities have tested positive for Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and a total of 45 people from two hospitals have been quarantined.

A young doctor at the District Headquarters Hospital (DHQ) on Saturday tested positive for Covid-19 while 15 people from the hospital have been placed in quarantine.

A postgraduate trainee in the medicine department, has been asked by the administration to isolate himself at his home in Islamabad while paramedical staff and other members of the department have been moved to the isolation ward.

Deputy Commissioner retired Capt Anwarul Haq told Dawn that a doctor at DHQ Hospital tested positive for Covid-19 and was isolated at home.

“We scanned all 15 members of the department and immediately quarantined them, and their samples have been sent to the National Institute of Health (NHI),” he said.

He added that precautionary measures were taken to prevent the spread of the virus in the hospital, and the Rawalpindi Waste Management Company was asked to disinfect the area.

The Young Doctors Association (YDA) Rawalpindi lashed out at the Punjab government for not providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to doctors working in filter clinics. They said Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid should take notice.

YDA Rawalpindi President Dr Rana Azeem told Dawn the government has not provided gloves, masks, gowns, goggles and face shields to protect doctors examining Covid-19 patients.

“We arranged these items from donations collected from philanthropists. In the last week, we arranged 300 items and distributed them among doctors at the front desks of coronavirus filter clinics in Rawalpindi,” Dr Azeem said.

He added that 2,500 more items will be received in a day or two, all donated by the public.

He said it was not the job of doctors to collect donations to protect themselves while working in government-run hospitals.

Dr Azeem demanded that doctors be allocated separate rooms if they contract Covid-19.

“We are also human beings and work day and night to protect people from diseases,” he said.

Rawalpindi Medical University (RMU) Vice Chancellor Dr Mohammad Umer was not available to comment on the provision of PPE to doctors at front desks, despite repeated attempts.

Deputy Commissioner Mr Haq said the government has asked the provincial disaster management authority to provide all the necessary kits to hospitals as soon as possible.

“We will get a new consignment of equipment in a day or two,” he said.

Polyclinic OPD closed

After confirmation that a health professional has contracted Covid-19, the Polyclinic outpatient department (OPD) was closed on Saturday and 30 officials were moved to a quarantine centre.

The OPD was functioning despite directions from the capital administration to close OPDs and only entertain emergency cases. All the officials, which include 28 doctors and two paramedics, have been tested and their results are expected in the next 24 hours.

Polyclinic media coordinator Dr Imtiaz Hassan told Dawn that the doctor who contracted the virus was engaged with the hospital because he was a fellow of the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

“The doctor completed his training a month and a half ago, but he was staying in the Polyclinic hostel. As 28 doctors and two paramedics were also residing there, they were all sent to quarantine in a building in I-9. The doctor, who belongs to Gilgit-Baltistan, who was infected with the virus has been admitted to the Polyclinic isolation ward,” he said.

“The tests of all 30 officials have been conducted and they will be discharged for quarantine if all of them are found to be negative,” he said.

Dr Hassan said the hospital’s outpatient department was not closed because it received a large number of daily visitors and they cannot be treated at the emergency department.

“If we close the OPD, people will not find any other avenue to get treatment. We decided to open the OPD to facilitate patients rather than for our facility. Every day, a large number of patients will heart problems, allergies, etc, come to the hospital and they should not return without treatment,” he said.

A doctor from the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences said that although the decision to close OPDs will help reduce the number of Covid-19 cases, it can create problems for other patients.

“As every patient cannot be treated in emergency, we fear that deaths due to heart, allergy and other related problems may increase in the coming days. A number of patients who come to OPDs with minor problems are suggested tests and then it is revealed if they are serious and need immediate intervention,” he added.

Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat said it was an administrative decision to close outpatient department, but Polyclinic did not implement it for four days.

“On Saturday, we decided to get our decision implemented as the virus can spread through OPDs and patients with complications can visit emergency departments,” he said.

Hostel sealed after resident tests positive

A hostel in G-7 has been sealed after a resident tested positive for Covid-19 and turned into a quarantine centre for its remaining residents.

Mr Shafqaat said the administration sealed the hostel after one of its 10 residents, all of whom are from Gilgit-Baltistan and have a travel history, tested positive and was taken to a hospital. The nine other residents have been quarantined at the hostel and their samples have been sent, he added.

The number of Covid-19 cases in the capital has risen to 39, including eight people from Bhara Kahu. Precautionary measures have been taken in and around the residential areas of the patients and their family members have been asked to self-isolate.

In addition, 320 people from various parts of the capital have been marked as suspected patients and asked to self-isolate as well. Mr Shafqaat said that a flight bringing 175 Pakistanis from Thailand lands in the capital Saturday night and arrangements have been made to quarantine the passengers if necessary.

Mr Shafqaat said screening in slum areas of the capital has been initiated as well. Health teams and the administration are screening slums and once the process is complete, areas will be disinfected as well, he said.

Separately, cases have been registered by the Sihala police against prayer leaders of two mosques for violating the ban on Friday prayer congregations.

Three Sadiqabad colonies sealed

Three Sadiqabad colonies have been sealed by the district administration and law enforcement after three more Covid-19 patients were detected in the area on Saturday.

The total number of Covid-19 cases in the Rawalpindi division has reached 43 in the last week. A total of 22 patients have been reported in Rawalpindi district, including a woman from Jhelum who died two days ago, and one in Attock district; there have not been any cases reported in the Chakwal district so far.

Dhoke Kashmirian, Dhoke Paracha and Magistrate Colony have been sealed and the areas were disinfected by the RWMC using chlorinated water. Heavy contingents of police, Rangers and other law enforcement personnel have also been deputed in these areas.

Rawal Superintendent of Police Rai Mazhar told Dawn that the three colonies were sealed completely after more patients were detected. He added that grocery stores will remain open so people can buy edibles and other daily-use items. Police teams made announcements using megaphones asking residents to stay in their homes and not to leave their houses unnecessarily.

City Police Officer Mohammad Ahsan Younis said in a statement that the Rawalpindi police was “on its toes to spread awareness and ensure implementation amidst the coronavirus outbreak”.

A meeting was also held at the commissioner’s office, chaired by Rawalpindi Commissioner retired Capt Mohammad Mehmood and attended by Mr Haq, assistant commissioners and health department officials.

Mr Mehmood told Dawn that the government was working to provide the utmost facilities to Covid-19 patients and to people in quarantine.

“Areas where more patients have been reported have been sealed,” he added.

“As many as 46 quarantine facilities have been set up to accommodate 5,194 persons and at present, 386 suspected patients are isolated including 100 in Rawalpindi, 215 in Attock and 71 in Jhelum while 229 people have been isolated in their homes,” he said.

He added that the administration was working to convince general stores to begin home deliveries so people do not have to go outside. Directions were given to deputy commissioners to ensure the supply chain of food and no hurdles will be tolerated in this regard.

The administrations of all four districts have been asked to ensure action against price hikes and hoarding, he said.

Meanwhile, in Taxila one patient tested positive for Covid-19 while four have been quarantined at various hospitals. Assistant Commissioner Mohammad Faheem confirmed that the woman had a travel history and was under treatment.

Published in Dawn, March 29th, 2020