Citizens’ evacuation from China not apt, says Mizra

SAPM assures good care and treatment for virus patients in China Cites WHO
not recommending evacuation from Wuhan

By Ajmal Khan

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza on Thursday said that there was no any recommendation issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) to its member countries to evacuate its citizens from China. Addressing a press conference along with Foreign Office Spokesperson Aisha Farooqui, Dr Zafar Mirza said that WHO had appreciated the efforts of Chinese government in handling the novel coronavirus disease. He said that there was a wide spread concern over novel coronavirus disease and in this regard World Health Organization called two emergency meetings to review the situation in China and elsewhere. He said that WHO also released certain instructions and advised to its members states on the disease. “Pakistan is strictly following these instructions which means we have to deal with the possibility of spread of this disease as a national emergency and all those measures must be taken as the national emergency is required.” Dr Zafar Mirza said that the government had decided to start awareness drive on electronic media to create awareness in the masses. He added standard information material was also being published in English, Urdu and Chinese language. He said that four Pakistanis students who got novel coronavirus cases in China were in good state of health and were being taken care very well. However, until now there was no reported case in Pakistan, he added. He said that the government had established national emergency operation centre and activated national task force on international health regulations besides creating national coronavirus emergency core committee in which all ministries and sectors were represented. He said that SOPs had been developed to manage the inflow of the international passengers and to examine some signs and symptoms in order to put those suspected people under observation besides isolating them in designated healthcare facilities and screening at ports of entry (POE). He said that the government had reinforced its facilities for screening at the ports of entry. “We are on high alert and taken measures we needed to be taken as a responsible government and there are clear instructions from the Prime Minister in this regard.” He said that emergency operation cell at the Federal Health Ministry was monitoring the situation round the clock. “Let me assure the people that the government is closely monitoring the situation and all necessary measures are being taken to screen all travelers from China and providing hospitalcare, where required.” He said thermos scanners and thermo guns have been provided to the well trained health staff at airports in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad to screen all passengers. He asked media for avoiding irresponsible reporting based on assumptions and rumours. He said there was absolutely no cause for panic or alarm. People need to take simple precautions for prevention against common flu like covering the nose and mouth while coughing and sneezing, frequent hand washing for 20 seconds with soap, avoiding close contact with sick people, animals, touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands, he added. He said coronavirus was a new respiratory virus first discovered in Wuhan, Hebei province of China on January 7 this year. He added so far 170 Chinese lost their lives due to this virus. He advised all Pakistanis staying in China to register themselves with the Pakistan embassy in Beijing through its website to have updated information and instructions. Foreign Office Spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said that the main focus of Pakistani embassy in China was to provide best possible assistance to Pakistani citizens and students. She said that Pakistani embassy was creating awareness in Pakistani community through its website and video messages of ambassador of Pakistan in China to prevent people from carrying this virus. She added Pakistan was in constant touch with the Chinese authorities to ensure safety of its nationals and the contact persons of Pakistan embassy were available at hotline for any assistance. Government on Thursday constituted a technical core committee to regularly monitor the situation and make immediate plans to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Pakistan. According to an official of Health Ministry, National Institute of Health has also activated its Emergency Operations Center to monitor the international dynamics of disease. It has also been directed for a close coordination among Central Health Establishment, World Health Organization and provincial health departments for national prevention and control. The official said directives have also been issued to NIH’s virology lab to develop a real time Reverse TranscriptionPolymerase Chain Reaction capacity for coronavirus as early as possible.