SAMAA TV's Amber Shamsi discusses this with lawmakers
The prime minister’s aide on health Dr Zafar Mirza confirmed in a press conference on Friday that the number of coronavirus cases in Pakistan has increased to 28. The seven new cases were reported in Balochistan’s Taftan.
The outbreak of the global pandemic across the country has ensued panic among people, especially in Sindh, as the province reported the highest number of cases.
A meeting of the National Security Council led by Prime Minister Imran Khan was called Friday night to discuss strategies on countering the issue. Ministers and officials from all provinces and their health departments were present during the meeting. According to Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the disaster management authorities of all provinces have been instructed to assess the situation every day.
Questions, however, were raised by the Sindh government over the Centre’s incompetence in containing the outbreak. Adviser to Sindh Chief Minister Murtaza Wahab recently claimed that the government was late in taking adequate precautionary measures to curb the virus.
“There is no doubt that the federal government was not taking the global emergency seriously,” PPP Senator Rubina Khalid told anchorperson Amber Shamsi on SAMAA TV’s programme Sawal Friday night.
“It was only the Sindh government that was taking measures and was responding to the matter promptly,” she said. “The government did close Balochistan’s Taftan border for people coming from Iran but what about the airports?” Senator Khalid questioned.
To this, PTI’s Farrukh Habib claimed that more than 900,000 people at airports across Pakistan have been screened so far. “Six centres have been established to test the virus and more are being built,” he said.
“The Sindh government’s efforts are laudable but in this state of emergency all institutions have to work together,” Habib said.
The foreign minister has said that the National Security Committee decided that international flights would only operate from the Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad airports. Desks and thermal scanners have been set up at the airports and all passengers are being screened.
“The Ministry of Health has developed an app through which travellers will be provided information regarding the virus, they will be constantly checked up on by health teams and even traced in case of an emergency,” Qureshi said.
He added that the situation is under control in Pakistan compared to other countries and the government is doing its best to contain the pandemic.
The host, however, raised another matter on the show of a journalist who recently visited Islamabad’s PIMS Hospital and was refused a screening test.
“I had a minor flu and cough for a few days so I decided to get myself screened for the virus,” said Raza Hamdani. “When I went to PIMS Hospital, they asked me if I had a travel history from Iran or China, upon refusal, they declined to test me,” he said.
“I even told them that I was willing to pay to which they responded that a test will only be taken if the doctor recommends it,” Hamdani added.
Shamsi said that this behavior is a potential threat of a coronavirus community outbreak. The latest case of the virus reported was of a man who did not have a travel history and has increased this fear.
“Initially, our top priority was to treat people from China and Iran because those were the areas most affected,” PTI’s Habib said. “But after the situation unfolded, the health department has updated its mechanisms.”
A health emergency has been declared in Punjab even though no cases were reported there. Provinces should stop indulging in these blame games and work together in this state of emergency, he added.
PML-N Senator Dr Musadik Malik had a similar opinion. “Countries around the world such as the US and France have taken radical steps to curb the virus, Pakistan should do the same,” he said.
“I just came back from Kohsar Market and it seems like people are still not aware of the pandemic, so the first step is awareness amongst them,” Malik added.
The government has decided to close its borders with Afghanistan and Iran for 15 days. Precautionary measures have been issued advising public to avoid large gatherings and crowds.
Education institutions across the country have also been shut down until April 6.