KARACHI: The federal government’s “absolute failure” in preventing the spread of Covid-19 variants demands that it impose an emergency in the country and suspend international and domestic passenger flights, train and public transport services till it puts in place an effective Covid-19 screening and monitoring system at all entry points, especially airports.
This was stated by Dr S.M. Qaiser Sajjad, secretary general of Pakistan Medical Association (PMA)-Centre, while speaking to Dawn on Monday following a presser organised at the PMA House.
“The evidence emerging from testing samples and studies show that it’s mainly the new Covid-19 variants largely responsible for the severe third wave in the country. It means that either we have a flawed monitoring system in place at airports or such a system doesn’t exist at all,” observed Dr Sajjad when asked about the reasons behind the current Covid-19 situation and the steps needed to prevent further escalation.
‘This time it’s also affecting children and the young population’
He was of the opinion that the government should learn from other countries with effective surveillance in place to detect Covid-19 cases. “They test all travellers on arrival and then they are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine period at designated hotels at their own cost. We need to have a similar system in place here.”
The virus (the UK-variant), he warned, was more deadly and infectious than the previous one and spreading fast in Hyderabad and Karachi. “This time it’s also affecting children and the young population and we are seeing patients developing sudden breathing problems following slight fever and cough. It’s the government’s responsibility to make people aware of the emerging situation and convince them to get vaccinated against the virus.”
To another question about making the Expo Centre as a field hospital for Covid-19 patients, he said the government should first ensure maximum utilization of existing public and private hospitals by extending the number of beds and allied treatment facilities. “As done last year during the first coronavirus wave, the government should take private hospitals on board and allocate Covid-19 beds there.”
Strict compliance with SOPs
At the press conference, health experts expressed deep concern over the increasing number of cases and deaths from Covid-19 and urged the government and all political parties to join hands, stop organising public events and save lives.
“They should demonstrate strict compliance to SOPs so the general public also feels inclined towards compliance. There should be a uniform policy to tackle coronavirus. Also, we request the Election Commission of Pakistan to ensure strict implementation of SOPs during the NA-249 election,” said general secretary PMA-Karachi Dr Abdul Ghafoor Shoro.
Speaking through video link, Dr Salma Aslam Kundi, president PMA-Centre, urged the government to speed up the vaccination process. “The government must do it on a priority basis and explore the possibility of developing the vaccine locally. We need to understand that coronavirus is here to stay and the country should have ample resources of its own to tackle this health challenge every year.”
Vaccination, she pointed out, was the most protective shield against Covid-19 and people must not pay attention to misunderstandings and myths related to Covid-19 vaccines.
The association called upon the government to increase vaccination facilities. At least 70-75 per cent of the population should be vaccinated as early as possible.
It also urged the government to make the vaccination process easier. People with a national identity card should be registered and vaccinated on the spot under a walk-in facility at the vaccination centres. The age limit on vaccination should be removed. If the vaccination process was not expedited it might take years to achieve the goals of the vaccination campaign and we could face a polio-like situation, they said.
Health experts also appealed to the public to adopt Covid-19 SOPs. “Wear mask whenever you go out. Maintain social distancing and wash or sanitize hands with proper intervals. By following these guidelines, we can continue with our trade and businesses otherwise the government will be compelled to impose a lockdown,” they said.
Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2021