ISLAMABAD: While the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) for Covid-19 has been reconstituted at the National Institute of Health (NIH) on the prime minister’s direction, an alert was also issued to the health authorities and professionals for monkeypox after which screening arrangements were made at airports on Monday to spot suspected cases.

In Pakistan, according to the NIH, no monkeypox case has been reported though it has reportedly spread to several non-endemic countries including the UK, Canada and Spain.

Explainer: How concerned should we be about monkeypox?

According to a notification, all ministries and directorates concerned will remain engaged in NCOC operations and functions as per requirement. The federal minister for national health services will chair the NCOC, which will have representation of the provinces as well as the National Disaster Management Authority.

The forum will extend its operations for prevention, detection, surveillance, and response to public health emergencies at national level as well as facilitate coordination with all provinces and regions.

The NCOC, which was established in March 2020, was officially shut down on March 3 after the coronavirus pandemic subsided. The forum earlier kept the nation updated on daily cases, death toll, recoveries, number of vaccination, etc as it held meetings on a daily basis, with ex-minister for special initiatives Asad Umar and NCOC national coordinator in the chair. PM’s aide on health Dr Faisal Sultan and representatives of all the provinces and administrative units used to attend the meetings.

Monkeypox outbreak alert

Meanwhile, the NIH issued an alert regarding monkeypox outbreak in non-endemic countries to health authorities and professionals at all levels.

As monkeypox spreads differently from Covid-19, the NIH has encouraged people to stay informed from reliable sources on the extent of the outbreak in their community (if any), symptoms and prevention.

According to the NIH, no such case has been reported in Pakistan and steps have been initiated to stop its arrival. In this regard, arrangements have been made at all airports and screening is being done to identify infected cases.

Since monkeypox spreads through close contact, the response should focus on the infected cases and their close contacts, according to the World Health Organization.

People who closely interact with someone who is infectious are at greater risk for infection including health workers and household members.

While appreciating WHO efforts in saving lives and promoting better health for all, Minister of National Health Services Abdul Qadir Patel at the 75th World Health Assembly session on Monday pointed out: “The connection between health and peace is real, powerful, and essential to ensuring the effectiveness and sustainability of health programs.”

Mr Patel, who spoke on this year’s theme ‘Health for Peace, Peace for Health’, emphasized that lack of access to health and basic social services could lead to “feelings of exclusion, which in turn can be a stimulus for conflict and violence”. He said there was a nexus between peace, security, development, and health. “We need to acknowledge that social injustice and systemic inequalities including in health are invisible drivers of violence,” he added.

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2022

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