As the rest of the country begins implementing measures to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus in Pakistan, Karachi’s NADRA centres are a chink in the government’s armor.
Thousands of people visit the mega centres in Karachi every day but the administration has yet to take any precautionary measures to safeguard the public.
The person in charge of one of the centres in Karachi told SAMAA Digital that the NADRA mega centres and other registration centres aren’t taking adequate measures against COVID-19. He believes the virus could be transmitted from their centres if measures aren’t taken.
“Taking the thumb impressions of the applicant through the biometric system installed at NADRA centres is a mandatory step for all applicants who come here for any reason,” he explained.
“We have thousands of visitors every day from different parts of the country who come for their CNIC issues and they all go through the process of thumb impressions via biometric machines, which could spread the virus,” he said.
He confirmed that they have not yet received any guidelines from the NADRA Headquarters on this yet.
NADRA Spokesperson Muhammad Faiq told SAMAA Digital that the administration has issued precautionary guidelines for employees such as wearing masks and sanitising their hands at regular intervals from the sanitizers installed at all centres.
“We are not in the position to close the NADRA facilitation centres anywhere in the country, as these are the public dealing centres visited by thousands of people on a daily basis,” he said.
Faiq said that the NADRA administration is well aware of the situation created by the pandemic. “On the directives of NADRA Chairman Usman Mobin, the administration will place proper sanitizers and tissue paper boxes for visitors at all National Registration Centers countrywide,” he promised.
The NADRA administration plans to issue a proper guideline for visitors from Monday instructing them to clean their hands with the tissue papers before giving thumb impressions via the biometric machines and then clean their hands with sanitizer.
But Dr Muhammad Ali Abbasi, the senior director of medical and health services at KMC, said this isn’t the right way to go about it. Cleaning your hands with tissue isn’t useful because it can still be contaminated. Using sanitiser before and after would be more effective, he suggested.
But according to the NADRA officials that won’t work. Sanitising your hand before using the biometric machine makes it harder to read your fingerprints.
In that case, Dr Qaiser Sajjad, the secretary-general of the Pakistan Medical Association, says they need a hand wash system where applicants wash their hands before using the machines and sanitise after.