Testing kits that would detect the novel coronavirus were supposed to arrive in Pakistan by Friday night. The consignment has, however, been delayed as flights from China are on hold.
The chief of the public health laboratory at the National Institute of Health Islamabad, Dr Muhammad Salman, lamented this while talking to SAMAA Digital on Friday afternoon.
The kits were sent by the Japanese government but the flight was coming from China.
All flights from China have been suspended, the cargo department of the PIA told SAMAA Digital. These include cargo flights. They have been suspended “till further notice”, but the department didn’t specify when that was.
According to information the CAA shared earlier, flights were supposed to resume February 2.
The testing kits are nucleic acid reagents or primers that diagnose the novel coronavirus. Around 1,000 reagents were supposed to arrive on Friday, said Dr Salman.
Pakistan does not have the means to test for the virus. Suspected cases are being ruled out by testing for closely related coronaviruses. There have been five suspected cases and all of them tested negative, according to the NIH.
The NIH has also developed a mechanism to coordinate with the provinces to deal with suspected cases.
It has “established close liaison with relevant stakeholders like provincial health departments, WHO, Directorate of Central Health Establishment, NDMS and other relevant stakeholders,” reads a notice on their website.
One suspected case in Karachi, a student who had returned from China’s Wuhan city, where the outbreak began, had been highlighted in the media lately. There were fears that he could be carrying the coronavirus though he didn’t show any symptoms.
The Sindh health department said the student, Arsalan a resident of Lyari, had been cleared by the Chinese authorities before departure.
He was not admitted to hospital and his test samples were sent to the NIH for investigation. He is not in quarantine, the provincial department clarified.
“The health department is in touch with him and monitoring him from time to time to make sure he has no symptoms of the virus,” an official said on Friday.
However, the WHO has said asymptomatic people can still transmit the virus. The incubation period, the time it takes for symptoms to show, for the novel coronavirus is believed to be between two and 10 days, according to the WHO.
There are also unconfirmed reports of a few other students who arrived in Sindh from Wuhan, but the government says they left before the quarantine was imposed in China.
Currently, there 9,692 confirmed cases in China with a death toll of 213. No deaths have been reported outside China but cases were detected in Thailand, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Australia, South Korea, France, Vietnam, United States, Germany, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Italy, England, India, Philippines, Finland, Nepal, Cambodia and Sri Lanka.
The WHO declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on Friday.
“It is expected that further international exportation of cases may appear in any country. Thus, all countries should be prepared for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing and prevention of onward spread of 2019-nCoV infection, and to share full data with WHO,” said the agency.