COVID-19, Shakes Pakistan, What are the remedial measures Pakistan government have taken so far to manage the crises and challenges?
Covid-19, A pandemic
China, an epicentre of COVID-19, is located northeast of Pakistan. Additionally, Pakistan shares its southwest border with Iran where the number of cases and deaths are increasing exponentially. The geographical locations of extremely severe outbreaks in two countries that border Pakistan (China and Iran), in addition to the declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic by WHO, forced Pakistan’s government to take drastic, severe, and quick actions to stop the further transmission of the virus in the country.
Notwithstanding this, the current trade agreements with China and the politico-religious relationship with Iran has resulted in the influx of infected individuals from these two regional epicentres of the virus. To curtail further transmission, as a first-line response Pakistan closed the border with China and put very strict screening methods at the Pakistani-Iranian border.
Additionally, in coordination with the civil aviation authority, the government of Pakistan enforced the screening of passengers before they would be allowed to enter the country. However, in the earlier days of the pandemic, Pakistan lacked the ability to diagnose COVID-19 directly and therefore the country had to rely on China, Japan, and the Netherlands to test their samples.
This resulted in a crucial time lag and caused delays in the government’s ability to adequately respond to the virus. Fortunately, the government did eventually receive diagnostic kits from China and primers from Japan to be able to test samples on their own . WHO also designated seven hospitals nationwide to test suspected COVID-19 patients . Pakistan’s federal government, with the collaboration of the Ministry of Health, devised a plan which was called, “The National Action Plan for The Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) Pakistan” .
The purpose of this plan was to devise policies and a template to help provincial governments and states across Pakistan with a guide for them to develop methods and strategies to best deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. Using this guidance, provincial governments established quarantine centers at Lahore and Karachi’s (two of the country’s biggest cities) exposition centers with the help of the armed forces of Pakistan . A newly constructed apartment building in the city of Sukkur was also designated as a quarantine camp by the government with 2,000 beds .
Quarantine centers established to contain Covid-19
quarantine centre was also established in the city of Taftan along the Pakistani-Iranian border. Purpose of this centre was to help identify and quarantine individuals returning to Pakistan. A very modern quarantine centre was established in Islamabad with 300 beds.
Countrywide Lock-down imposed to contain Covid-19
The government also ordered the closure of all hotels and, by invoking special powers, designated some of them as quarantine centres. Apart from these containment facilities, the government also established isolation wards in many hospitals.
The Ministry of Health also managed to provide crucial supplies to the fight of this disease such as face masks, gloves, and protective suits to protect the paramedical staff and doctors at the frontlines of this pandemic. Hospitals started primarily dealing with crucial emergencies and COVID-19 patients. Telephone helplines were established by the provincial governments for people to inquire about COVID-19 related healthcare issues. They also used this platform to let callers know that they should stay at home if they start experiencing any symptoms of the virus.
Campaigns were launched throughout the nation’s traditional media and social media outlets to increase awareness among the general public about proper hand sanitization techniques and the importance of social distancing to break the chain of transmission. The government distributed alcohol-based sanitizers to people in need and the manufacturing of disinfectant walkthrough gates also began, with some installed at the entrance of some food markets.