Chinese experts say social distancing, massive testing key to fight Covid-19

Updated April 09, 2020

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A worker sprays sanitiser on the hands of man lining up, while maintaining social distancing, to buy groceries  in Karachi on April 8. — AFP
A worker sprays sanitiser on the hands of man lining up, while maintaining social distancing, to buy groceries in Karachi on April 8. — AFP

KARACHI: Chinese health and medical experts, who personally played a key role in Beijing’s battle against the outbreak of Covid-19, have expressed serious concerns over the pace of spread of coronavirus in Pakistan, suggesting social distancing as well as massive testing as the only way out of the crisis.

Talking to reporters at a local hotel here, the Chinese experts appreciated the efforts so far against the virus but said the provincial government still needed to increase its testing capacity while imposing harsher lockdown measures to maintain social distancing.

Otherwise, they feared, the situation could worsen beyond the capacity of the provincial health system.

The delegation was led by Ma Minghui of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Medical Products Administration; Li Fengsen, deputy head of the medical team, Lu Dongmei; Song Yunlin, Enwer Nasiroula, Zhang Li, Meng Cunren and Liu Wanli.

Maximum use of masks suggested

The foreign experts believed that only massive testing could help determine the exact number of positive coronavirus cases in the country. They suggested that the Sindh government should set up special clinics across the province so that they could test the suspected cases at a faster pace.

They said that the government should “forcefully” implement the lockdown as social distancing could only help when it was followed strictly and for a longer period.

They also urged the masses to opt for maximum use of face masks and appealed to them not to pay any heed to different unproven theories about the pandemic.

About the impact of rise in temperature on the virus, they called it just an assumption as it had not yet been proven.

They said that the countries with hot weather were also experiencing a rise in the number of Covid-19 positive cases.

They suggested the government to set up groups of experts from different walks of life so other challenges emerging due to the pandemic could be handled collectively.

Dedicated wards for Covid-19 patients

Meanwhile, Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho held a meeting with heads of all public sector hospitals of the province via a video link and called for setting up dedicated wards in their respective facilities for coronavirus patients.

A statement issued by the health department said that Dr Pechuho asked all the hospitals to train their doctors, paramedics and other staff for handling the positive cases with all due precaution and care.

“All hospitals would make sure the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) to their staff serving in emergencies, isolation wards and ICU,” she said, adding “the staff serving in isolation wards would offer duties for six hours only and they would be provided separate rooms for stay. The medical superintendent of the hospitals would keep updating the ministry about the progress every week.”

The minister also asked the hospitals to open their outpatient departments (OPDs) and those which were unable to do so would initiate a telemedicine programme for their regular patients, according to the statement.

Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2020