Battling at the front

Healthcare and law enforcement professionals are more vulnerable following the easing of restrictions during Ramazan

Challenges for ‘frontliners’, including healthcare professionals and law enforcement personnel, increased manifold during Ramazan as people weary from an earlier, and stricter, lockdown due to the pandemic made their way to markets with restrictions eased across the country. These healthcare and law enforcement professionals are worried that a majority of people who don’t care about following standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued by the government to contain the pandemic.

Healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses and paramedical staff, are facing unprecedented workloads during the pandemic. They are also at greater risk of getting exposed to the virus, now that restrictions on movement have been eased.

Nimra*, a nurse working at an intensive care unit (ICU) in a government hospital in Lahore, is attending to patients of coronavirus. She says she performs her duties with a patriotic spirit, “because our country is battling against the virus. It needs us to take the lead right now”. But Nimra often worries about her children. She fears that if she contracts the virus, her children could also be infected. “But I know we will defeat this virus,” she says resolutely.

Muhammad Sami works at a testing laboratory and says it is difficult for him to do his job while fasting with the fear of coronavirus looming over his head. When people with symptoms of the virus, visit his laboratory for a test, fear grips him. He takes all precautionary measures while performing his duties. “I always take precaution including checking my temperature before going home and before leaving for my lab. But this is my job, my duty,” he says. “My sympathy has increased towards people infected with the virus, especially during Ramazan because this month teaches you patience and restraint.”

Around 800 health professionals have been infected with coronavirus while performing their duties, says Dr Salman Haseeb, president of Young Doctors’ Association (YDA) Punjab. According to him easing of lockdown will increase difficulties for health professionals already battling with the virus. He says many people are still not taking the pandemic seriously. “They are not wearing masks and are not even using hand sanitisers,” he says. He laments that doctors’ complaints about not being provided N-95 masks and personal protective equipment (PPEs) have remain unaddressed. The doctors’ body complains that the doctors who had been infected with coronavirus and were admitted in a Multan hospital were not given proper healthcare facilities.

Last month, a number of doctors went on a strike to protest over the lack of PPEs and safety protocols.

The Grand Health Alliance (GHA) alleged on Tuesday that the Punjab government and its Health Department had failed to limit the spread of coronavirus by not helping doctors. In a press conference held at the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC), the speakers said that 48 members of the PIC staff had been infected with coronavirus. They said another 25 were in quarantine. The press conference was told that the authorities had provided 774 N-95 masks for as many as 2,100 staff.

Among the police, at least 486 officials have been infected with coronavirus. A total of 338 policemen remain in quarantine while 146 have recovered. Two police officials have lost their battle against the virus in the Punjab, says Nayab Haidar, a spokesperson for the Punjab Police inspector general. “They are performing their duties at mosques, pickets, police stations and other important places. They cannot go on leave like other departments. The law enforcement agencies have to work even in the worst of conditions.” According to Haidar, these officers are being provided safety equipment including masks, gloves and hand sanitisers.

According to media reports, 150 policemen have been infected with coronavirus in Sindh out of which 3 have reportedly died. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 39 police officials have been infected with coronavirus. Reports indicate that a superintendent of Police (SP), three deputy superintendents of police (DSP) and 11 constables have tested positive.

*Name has been changed to protect the identity.

The writer is reporter for The News in Lahore. He can be reached at  [email protected]

Battling coronavirus at the front