WHO praises Pakistan’s handling of Covid-19 pandemic

Updated 11 Sep 2020

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WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a media briefing said Pakistan deployed the infrastructure built up over many years for polio to combat Covid-19. — Reuters/File
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a media briefing said Pakistan deployed the infrastructure built up over many years for polio to combat Covid-19. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: The World Health Organisation (WHO) said Pakistan was among countries from whom the international community should learn how to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Former Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Zafar Mirza told Dawn it was the recognition of Pakistan’s effort at the international level.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a media briefing said Pakistan deployed the infrastructure built up over many years for polio to combat Covid-19.

“Community health workers who have been trained to go door-to-door vaccinating children for polio have been utilised for surveillance, contact tracing and care,” he said.

“There are many other examples, including Cambodia, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Senegal, Spain and Vietnam. Many of these countries have done well because they learned lessons from previous outbreaks of SARS, MERS, measles, polio, Ebola, flu and other diseases. That’s why it’s vital that we all learn lessons this pandemic is teaching us,” he said.

Asks international community to follow its example

Dr Mirza in a tweet stated: “Pakistan included among seven countries by WHO Director General- countries that the world can learn from about how to fight future pandemics. Great honour for the people of Pakistan. Alhamdolilah.”

Talking to Dawn, Dr Mirza said it was the recognition of the national effort internationally.

“It proves that if we want to do something we can do it. Moreover, the WHO DG spoke about the importance of the public health system. It is talked about ‘building back better (BBB)’ and I believe time has come to build back,” he said.

BBB is an approach to post-disaster recovery that reduces vulnerability to future disasters and builds community resilience to address physical, social, environmental, and economic vulnerabilities and shocks.

While there are rumours that Dr Mirza has left the country, he again said he is not going anywhere and will stay in Pakistan.

“I am not in a job mode anymore and just want to contribute for the awareness of the masses,” he said.

Ministry of National Health Services spokesperson Sajid Shah said it was collective efforts from the platform of National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) due to which not only Pakistan proved all international estimates regarding the number of cases wrong but also minimised the cases.

He said efforts were being made to further push back the virus.

While Pakistan has minimised the Covid-19 cases, in India around 4.5 million cases and 75,000 deaths have been reported. India is ranked second after the United States in which 6.5 million cases have been reported.

The virus was first detected in China in December 2019 and then it started spreading in other countries. Pakistan had closed its borders and took a number of steps to stop the transmission due to which the first case of Covid-19 was reported in the last week of February. On March 13, the first meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) was held to discuss the crisis which was later declared pandemic by WHO.

Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired the meeting of NSC and directed the concerned authorities to devise a comprehensive strategy to prevent the spread of the disease.

A lockdown was announced on March 16 and a number of industries, including the construction industry, educational institutions, restaurants, marriage halls etc were closed.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was involved to ensure medical equipment and health related supplies at the earliest due to which coordination with the provinces improved. Pakistan also sealed its western border with Afghanistan and Iran. Even Kartarpur shrine was closed for local people.

The construction industry was opened on August 7 and the National Coordination Committee (NCC) on Covid-19 lifted restrictions on the tourism sector from Aug 8 and on restaurants and transport sector from Aug 10.

Since the opening of tourist spots, a huge influx of tourists was observed without following SOPs due to which Gilgit-Baltistan had to close its tourist spots. However, a large number of people have been visiting other areas of the country, including Kumrat Valley, due to which it is feared that the second wave of the virus may arrive.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2020