WHO asks Sindh govt to enhance Covid-19 testing capacity

Published April 5, 2021
A paramedic wearing protective gear takes a nose-swab sample to be tested for the coronavirus in Karachi. — Reuters/File
A paramedic wearing protective gear takes a nose-swab sample to be tested for the coronavirus in Karachi. — Reuters/File

KARACHI: Although no case of UK Covid-19 variant has been reported so far this year in Sindh, which is conducting highest number of tests, the World Health Organisation has recommended the provincial health system to increase its testing capacity and also develop the capacity to test Variants of Concern (VoC) including the B.1.1.7, which are being reported in other parts of the country.

A WHO delegation led by its country representative in Pakistan Dr Palitha Mahipala Gunarathna and Dr Sara Salman had on Friday attended the meeting of the provincial Covid-19 task force at the Chief Minister’s House in Karachi to review the cocornavirus situation in the province.

The WHO representatives recommended that public health measures such as mask wearing, hand hygiene and social distancing should be strictly implemented in order to counter the third wave of the pandemic.

“The WHO is supporting federal and provincial governments for strengthening the emergency response and healthcare delivery system in response to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said a WHO-Pakistan statement while extending its support to counter the disease.

The global health body assures its support at federal and provincial levels for detection of identified VOC

“In its recommendations to the stakeholders, WHO requested the provincial government to increase its testing capacity, develop capacity to test for VOC, and enforce public health measures such as mask wearing, hand hygiene, and social distancing in order to counter the third wave of the Covid-19,” it added.

The Sindh health officials and sources, meanwhile, also shared the inputs of the WHO in Pakistan regarding the VOC including the UK variant that would spread rapidly if its chain was not broken.

“The WHO experts pointed out that from March 26 to this date on average 55 deaths per day have been recorded,” said a health official while referring to the data shared by the WHO.

“They showed trust that Pakistan has the capacity for VOC detection through targeted polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for S gene or partial and whole genome sequencing methods. They referred to the Pakistan situation where the country has reported an increased number of VoC (B.1.1.7 of UK origin) since January 2021.”

They further said the WHO delegation recommended a strategy for variant monitoring and tracking the disease and assured their support at national and provincial levels for detection of identified VOC and strengthening capacity for early identification of emerging new variants through whole genome sequencing (WGS).

Equipment given to five hospitals

Meanwhile, the WHO officials also handed over to the Sindh health department three state-of-the-art incinerators, a nutrition stabilisation centre (NSC), other equipment and supplies as part of its patient safety friendly hospital initiative,.

Dr Mahipala of the WHO gave the medical equipment to Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho for five hospitals.

The hospitals include the Government Lyari General Hospital, Karachi, Liaquat Hospital, Jamshoro, Chandka Medical College Hospital, Larkana, District Headquarters Hospital, Mithi, Tharparkar and Khairpur Medical College.

The ceremony was attended by Qasim Soomro, parliamentary secretary of health, Sindh, Health Secretary Dr Kazim Jatoi, Dr Irshad Memon, director general of the health services, and Dr Sahib Jan Badar, programme coordinator of the accelerated action plan.

“WHO as part of its commitment to the people of Pakistan, supports the Health System Strengthening (HSS); Infection Prevention and Control (IPC); Waste Management, maternal newborn and child health services, nutrition services and patient safety friendly hospital framework in Sindh” said a WHO statement.

Published in Dawn, April 5th, 2021

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