Bajwa, Bill Gates discuss Pakistan’s response to Covid-19

Published August 16, 2020
Gen Bajwa and  Gates also discussed the safe resumption of polio campaign and efforts needed to effectively conduct it under Covid-19 environment. — Reuters/File
Gen Bajwa and Gates also discussed the safe resumption of polio campaign and efforts needed to effectively conduct it under Covid-19 environment. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: While a little over 16,000 active cases of coronavirus have been left in Pakistan, Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) Bill Gates spoke on telephone about Pakistan’s Covid-19 response and resumption of polio eradication campaign.

According to a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations on Saturday, Mr Gates praised Pakistan Army for supporting the national polio drive, ensuring proper reach and coverage.

The COAS said it was a national cause and a national effort for a polio-free Pakistan and credit went to the grassroots workers, including mobile teams, personnel of law enforcement agencies and healthcare representatives.

Gen Bajwa and Mr Gates also discussed the safe resumption of polio campaign and efforts needed to effectively conduct it under Covid-19 environment.

Mr Gates appreciated Pakistan’s success against Covid-19 despite resource constraints. The COAS attributed the success to a true national response, executed through the mechanism of the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) on Covid-19, which allowed optimisation of resources.

The co-chair of the BMGF reiterated the foundation’s ongoing commitment to fight pandemics around the world, and to support Pakistan in its goals of ending polio and improving health for every child.

The polio campaign remained suspended in the country for almost four months due to the pandemic. A sub- national campaign was launched from Aug 13 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and from 15 in Punjab and Sindh. In Balochistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir the campaign will start from Aug 17. As many as 34 million children under the age of five will be vaccinated in 130 districts across Pakistan.

So far 64 polio cases have been reported from across the country this year, as compared to 147 cases in 2019 and 12 in 2018. Provincial data show that this year 22 cases have been reported from KP, 21 from Sindh, 16 from Balochistan and five from Punjab.

The Coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre of Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme, Dr Rana Safdar, said the campaign in August would help tackle increased virus transmission within hotspots of virus circulation across the country.

“The August campaign is much bigger than the last campaign held in July. We are hoping to reach many more vulnerable children,” he said in a statement. “I was encouraged with the success of our last campaign, particularly how parents cooperated with vaccinators despite Covid-19 environment, and how our vaccinators followed the Covid-19 safety precautions they were trained on. I believe that if we continue to learn and adapt to the current environment, we can continue to fight the polio virus head on.”

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus. It mainly affects children under the age of five. It invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis or even death.

While there is no cure for polio, vaccination is the most effective way to protect children from this crippling disease. Each time a child under the age of five is vaccinated, their protection against the virus is increased. Repeated immunisation has protected millions of children from polio, allowing almost all countries in the world to become polio-free.

However, there are only two countries in the world, Pakistan and Afghanistan, where polio cases are being reported. Pakistan remains under a polio-linked travel restriction imposed by the World Health Organisation due to which, since 2014, every Pakistani citizen travelling abroad has to carry a polio vaccination certificate.

NCOC on Covid-19

According to data released by the NCOC on Saturday, a total of 16,261 active cases of Covid-19 remain in the country. As many as 149 ventilators, out of 1920 allocated for Covid-19, are in use and there is no patient on ventilator in AJK and Balochistan.

Published in Dawn, August 16th, 2020

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