Incoming passengers from China being screened at airports
Special Assistant to PM on Health Dr Zafar Mirza has denied media reports that a coronavirus case has been reported in Pakistan.
Reports had come in on Friday evening of a case being diagnosed in Multan. However, Dr Mirza denied this in a Twitter post.
“We expect responsible reporting by media. Please do not add to nation’s anxiety about coronavirus and meticulously check facts before reporting,” he urged.
He also posted that as midnight on Friday, there were no cases of coronavirus, suspected or confirmed, in Pakistan.
172/ As of tonight, there are no suspected or confirmed cases of #coronavirus in Pakistan. The EOC is on high alert and we’re closely communicating with the Chinese authorities. Leading domestic and international health experts are also mobilized in this work. @WHOPakistan pic.twitter.com/RjEEqwHXet— Zafar Mirza (@zfrmrza) January 24, 2020
The Emergency Operations Centre is on high alert and we’re closely communicating with the Chinese authorities, he said. “Leading domestic and international health experts are also mobilized in this work,” he wrote, tagging the World Health Organization Pakistan.
On Friday, he said Pakistan does not have the facility to diagnose China’s coronavirus. “Only specialized virology labs can diagnose coronavirus,” the PM’s aide said in a statement. “Pakistan does not have the facility to diagnose it.”
He said the Ministry of National Health Services had contacted virology labs in China, Hong Kong and Holland for the diagnosis of coronavirus.
Dr Mirza said samples from suspected coronavirus cases would be sent to those labs.
Earlier this week, Pakistan established an emergency operations room in response to the virus. All flights, direct and indirect, coming from China are currently under strict surveillance. Dr Mirza also posted pictures on his Twitter account of passengers being screened at the airport upon arrival.
Every week, there are 41 direct or indirect flights from China landing in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi.
“These points of entry are being closely monitored in line with the International Health Regulations,” Dr Mirza said Wednesday. He said authorities had strengthened their surveillance, quarantine and case management systems.
The Ministry of National Health Services earlier directed health officials to monitor the spread of coronavirus from China’s Wuhan province.
After that, the National Institute of Health issued a health advisory “to alert and sensitise the health staff at border posts as well as in healthcare institutions of Pakistan to stay vigilant about any suspected cases coming from affected areas for an early detection.”
Health authorities have been asked to investigate anyone with symptoms of severe respiratory infections such as fever, cough, difficulty in breathing and a history of travel to Wuhan within the last 15 days.
People who had contact with suspected or confirmed cases, infected animals, seafood, meat or any other animal products in China should also be monitored, the advisory stated.
The Huanan Seafood and Meat wholesale market in Wuhan is believed to the epicentre of the new outbreak by Chinese health authorities.
At hospitals across Wuhan in China’s Hubei province, tense patients with high temperatures turned out in large numbers to get checked as the death toll rose to 26 and the number of cases topped 800, most of them in the city.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed its first case on Tuesday. Last weekend, the CDC started health screenings for Wuhan passengers arriving at John F Kennedy International Airport in New York, Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport, reported CNN.
Cases have also been reported from Thailand, Japan and South Korea.