• Decision taken after Faisal Edhi, who met Imran recently, tests positive for deadly virus
• Countrywide death toll doubles within a week
ISLAMABAD: As the total number of deaths from coronavirus surpassed 200 on Tuesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan underwent a test for Covid-19. Health authorities collected his sample and the result is expected on Wednesday (today).
The decision was made as per a standard operating procedure (SOP) suggesting that every contact of a confirmed Covid-19 case should undergo a test.
The confirmation about the test came from the prime minister’s focal person on Covid-19 Dr Faisal Sultan. “Prime minister will undergo Covid-19 test as he met philanthropist Faisal Edhi who later tested positive for the deadly virus,” he said at a news conference along with Prime Minister Khan.
Faisal Edhi, the head of Edhi Foundation, came to Islamabad by road and handed over a cheque for Rs10 million to the prime minister for the coronavirus relief fund.
Interestingly, later in a TV interview, Mr Edhi revealed that PM Khan did not recognise him. An industrialist, who was present there, recognised him and told the prime minister that he [Mr Faisal] was son of the late Abdul Sattar Edhi.
An official of the National Institute of Health (NIH) said on condition of anonymity that as per the SOP all contacts of a confirmed Covid-19 patient should be tested. When asked about the definition of a contact, he said any person who had talked to a confirmed patient for 15 minutes in a closed room or stood at a distance of less than six feet was called a contact.
“Though according to Faisal Edhi, he spent just a few minutes with the premier, the picture we have seen in newspapers showed that the distance between the two personalities was less than six feet. Though they did not shake hands, the virus can be transferred through cheque,” the official said.
“Moreover, it is an international practice that risk cannot be taken in such high-profile cases. So it has been decided to test the premier. As the prime minister met a number of personalities and also chaired cabinet meetings, we are expecting that a number of samples will be received,” he said.
The NIH official pointed out that some days ago a co-worker of Faisal Edhi tested positive for coronavirus and later he [Mr Edhi] came to Islamabad. “Symptoms of Covid-19 developed here due to which he was tested and found positive. Mr Edhi has been residing at an Edhi home in Islamabad,” he said.
The official said that since 66 per cent cases of Covid-19 had been caused by local transmission, now anyone can contract the virus from anywhere. “Moreover, a decision has been taken to relax the lockdown due to which the situation can become worse in the coming days,” he added.
Meanwhile, Faisal Edhi in a video statement urged his team to continue welfare activities and he would join them after having recovered from Covid-19.
Saad Edhi, a son of Faisal Edhi, told Dawn in Karachi that his father had developed Covid-19 symptoms a day after meeting PM Khan. The impact of symptoms, he added, continued for four days and then subsided. However, on Monday, he got tested in Islamabad and on Tuesday his report came as positive.
Saad said his father’s health was better and he was in self-isolation, adding that he was not admitted at any hospital.
Health situation room
Meanwhile, the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) has established a Health Situation Room (HSR) at the ministry to deal with Covid-19.
NHS ministry’s spokesman Sajid Shah said the HSR would help boost coordination among all stakeholders and would also be used against other diseases such as dengue.
In another development, the NHS ministry has entered into a partnership with global technology giant Google to raise awareness about prevention of Covid-19 in the country. Free space has been provided by Google for public education through all existing channels, including Search, Display and YouTube. Through this assistance, the NHS ministry will be able to deliver critical information to Pakistanis on how to prevent and cope with the spread of Covid-19.
“The free space or ad credits provided are worth $5 million and are part of Google’s Ad Grants Programme and are anticipated to run until the end of the year. To support Pakistan both in the ongoing short-term response to the virus and in the long-term, Google is concentrating on three priorities that they believe are critical to a sustainable recovery,” said a statement.
Bilawal’s directive to CM
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has directed Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah to visit all districts of the province. He said that providing relief to those in need at their doorstep was an appreciable task. The principle of social distancing should be followed and the people in need should be dealt with in a manner which did not compromise their self respect, he added.
Mr Bilawal, who is in Islamabad, was briefed by the Sindh chief minister on the situation in Larkana through a video link.
According to a statement, Mr Shah informed the PPP chairman that a Covid-19 test laboratory in Larkana would be in operation next week. He said 13,500 ration bags had been distributed among the poor in Larkana, whereas 3,313 families had been given Rs6,000 each from the Zakat fund.
Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2020