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March 12, 2020

Sindh uneasy with federal govt’s screening for coronavirus

Top Story

March 12, 2020

KARACHI: Not satisfied with the screening of passengers and absence of a proper quarantine facility at Jinnah International Airport Karachi (JIAP), the Sindh health department has deployed a workforce of 100 doctors, paramedics and trained nurses to screen passengers in three shifts at the airport, Sindh health department officials said on Wednesday.

Similarly, the provincial health department has asked the Karachi airport authorities to identify a proper place at the new or the old airport where a quarantine facility could be established where the suspected patients with Coronavirus symptoms and history of travelling to affected countries could be kept, they said.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah also pointed out “some weakness in the screening of the passengers and Zaireen,” at the Jinnah Terminal and at Taftan, which has resulted in diagnosis of a child as positive for Coronavirus after being cleared from the quarantine at Taftan.

The chief minister was presiding over the 14th meeting of Taskforce on Coronavirus. “This shows that the screening system at Taftan is weak and the child declared coronavirus patient at Quetta might have infected others at the quarantine as well.” Murad Ali Shah directed the provincial health department to make best arrangements for screening of the passengers at the Jinnah Terminal and asked the Balochistan government to further strengthen its screening system at Taftan border crossing with Iran.

There are 14 Coronavirus cases in Sindh, of them eight returned from Syria, three from Dubai and three from Iran. The Sindh health department got 26 suspects tested for coronavirus on Wednesday (today) and all of them were declared as negative. The Sindh government has so far187 coronavirus suspects, of whom only 14 were diagnosed as positive.

The chief minister was told that the person found unconscious near Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center (JPMC) Karachi on Wednesday had returned from Iran by air on Wednesday (today).

He was hospitalized and his samples were sent for lab test. At this, the chief minister pointed out that the screening arrangements at Jinnah Terminal needed to be made more effective. However, he added that the passenger might have some other issue rather than coronavirus and his test results should be awaited before jumping to conclusion.

The Sindh chief secretary told the chief minister that 100 health workers were deployed at the airport who would perform duties in three shifts. Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho said that she along with her team visited airport and made necessary arrangements for developing quarantine facility outside the Immigration area in 25 cubicles. The Civil Aviation Authority has also agreed to develop the [quarantine] facility. The Sindh health department and Indus hospital would provide technical support and human resource.

The chief minister was told that 142 suspects were quarantined at their homes, of them 34 would complete their mandatory isolation by Thursday and the remaining 66 would be allowed in the open from March 13. It was pointed out that 43 passengers out of 59 belonging to different districts of Sindh were tracked. Of these 36 passengers have been quarantined. The chief minister was also informed that the public hospitals have shared the data of 1,874 patients of pneumonia and flu while the private hospital have furnished a list of 702 patients. The health department told that they were taking necessary action on these details. It was also disclosed that 27 samples of severe pneumonia were sent for lab test.

Referring to the child who showed signs of coronavirus infection in Balochistan after being allowed to leave the quarantine, Sindh chief minister said that it shows the patient might have affected other people in the quarantine as well.

He directed the chief secretary to talk to Balochistan authorities for checking the patients in the quarantine at Taftan. He decided that the 850 pilgrims arriving from Taftan at Sukkur would be subjected to the full range of coronavirus test protocol. “I would arrange an aerophane to lift the samples of all the in-coming pilgrims en bloc from Sukkur and bring them to Karachi for quick tests ensuring early determination,” he said.

Murad Ali Shah also asked media to on air public service messages and asked the people not to go to stadium to witness PSL match if they have any symptoms of pneumonia, influenza and chest congestion. The police dept told the chief minister that 2,500 policemen would perform their duties at the PSL matches.

The police have made all the necessary arrangements. Shah also discussed the opening or continued closure of academic institutions at the meeting. It was pointed out that the examinations were around the corner and the academic institutions must be allowed to open. Some of the participants said that in Sindh, "all the cases of coronavirus were brought by those returning from abroad and there was no local origin of the infection, therefore the schools could be opened. The decision about academic institutions would be reviewed further tomorrow (Thursday). Besides the relevant ministers and secretaries, representatives from CAA, Sindh and Karachi, Sukkur administrations and those from Indus Hospital WHO attended the meeting.

Meanwhile, spokesman of Sindh government Barrister Murtaza Wahab said while the world is facing a Coronavirus pandemic, the federal government is showing “lack of -seriousness,” in containing the lethal viral disease.

“All the people who tested positive for Coronavirus entered the country and Sindh through airport, which is controlled and managed by the federal government. Not a single case of local transmission was reported so far in Sindh, which only shows that officials at the airports and entry points are not performing their responsibilities properly,” Murtaza Wahab said while addressing a news conference at Sindh Assembly on Wednesday. He maintained that Sindh government had decided that a media briefing would be conducted on a daily basis to keep the public informed and Chief Minister Sindh would continue presiding over a meetings of the Corona Virus Task Force.

The spokesman of Sindh government maintained that so far 2,300 people who entered Sindh from Iran were screened, while 188 were tested for Coronavirus, of which only 14 were tested positive. Families of these 14 people were also tested and all of them were found negative, he added. He maintained that Sindh Chief Minister was highly active and holding daily meetings in order to contain the disease in the province but unfortunately, the prime minister is not displaying any seriousness while other provincial governments were busy in political maneuvering instead of protecting their people.