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February 2, 2020

Precautionary measures for coronavirus: KP govt declares state of emergency, nominates focal persons


February 2, 2020

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has started taking precautionary measures by declaring a state of emergency and nominating focal persons in all the districts for a better response and facilitation in case of a coronavirus outbreak in the province.

On the other hand, a patient admitted to the Saidu Teaching Hospital in Swat district for having symptoms similar to coronavirus, was stated to be stable and healthy. The social media had recklessly reported him as ‘first coronavirus’ patient in Pakistan. This irresponsible attitude on the part of social media had created panic, not only in Swat but also all over the country. Swat Deputy Commissioner Saqib Raza Aslam had to appear on the mainstream media to prevent further chaos and panic. On Friday night, the deputy commissioner recorded a video statement to deny any positive case of coronavirus in Swat and explained that the patient was suffering from flu. The physician followed protocols and advised him to undergo some additional investigations.

In the investigations, the physician added coronavirus and the moment the people heard this, they started spreading rumours as if the patient had been tested positive to coronavirus. The official said his samples had been sent to the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Islamabad and the reports would be received in a few days. He said since certain Chinese nationals had a travel history to Swat during the past few days and weeks working in hydro projects, therefore the administration took some precautionary measures by establishing isolation wards and seeking medical kits from the NIH. The official said the patient was still in the hospital but was healthy and stable.

Meanwhile, the KP government declared a ‘state of emergency’ in the province and nominated focal persons in all the districts for better response and facilitation in case of an outbreak. Director General Health Services Dr Tahir Nadeem Khan told The News about the preparedness to cope with the coronavirus. He said that though there was no positive case in the country and KP, yet the government had decided to take all precautionary measures before the outbreak of the disease. Dr Tahir Nadeem Khan said they focused on the airport, the Bacha Khan International Airport in Peshawar which is the lone international airport, and land routes with Afghanistan on Torkham.

For the airport and international land routes, the federal government was required to provide doctors and other support staff and mandatary services. Dr Tahir Nadeem said they had arranged a three-bed isolation unit at the airport in Peshawar and provided doctors, paramedics and all the required services for the screening of the suspected patients. They would be available round-the-clock.

The DG Health said they had also arranged medical staff with facilities for the Torkham border along with Afghanistan. “Setting up the isolation unit at the airport is to prevent further spread of the virus in case of the positive case there and to avoid taking a suspected patient to a distant health facility,” explained Dr Tahir Nadeem. He said the disease is caused by a viral infection and is incurable so far. The virus has own behaviour and is transmitted in the air. “The problem with this virus is it is a droplet infection released in water vapour of the infected person, remains in the air and spreads very fast. And that’s why it is infecting more and more people within no time,” Dr Tahir Nadeem elaborated. According to the DG Health, they don’t want to create panic but at the same time they don’t want to ignore the danger and that’s why they took some important steps to be on the safe side.

He said that after proper consultation, the Fauji Foundation Hospital in the Peshawar Cantonment has been declared as a filter point for its being close to the airport. And in case of an outbreak and limited space in the Fauji Foundation Hospital, the patients would be referred to the Police Services Hospital Peshawar and then the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH). Besides the airport, Dr Tahir Nadeem said, they had also focused on the Battagram district which is frontline for being the main route between China and Pakistan. “Presently, there is no such case in KP. And even the Chinese nationals living here didn’t visit their country in the past three months,” said Dr Tahir Nadeem. “But just to be on the safe side, we are at high alert.”

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