A Pakistani volunteer
A Pakistani volunteer takes the temperature of a young spectator in Karachi on March 12, 2020. Image Credit: AP

ISLAMABAD: Terming Pakistan’s measures against novel coronavirus (Covid-19) threat as ‘timely’ and the ‘best national response’ World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged the government to continue to keep a vigilant eye on new cases and expand testing facilities to various public sector hospitals.

Country Head of the WHO Dr Palitha Gunarathna Mahipala, while talking to media in Karachi during his visit to various hospitals and testing labs, said: “At a time when other countries were reporting cases, Pakistan was keeping the virus at bay, which is something quite praiseworthy.”

Mahipala said people should regularly wash their hands with soap and water at least for 20 seconds and use sanitisers when they can’t wash their hands.

He also said that adopting coughing etiquette was also very important as it would prevent spreading the virus to others.

The WHO Chief was in the city to assess the provincial government’s response to the virus and to inspect isolation units set up in various hospitals.

During his visit to Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), he met the Executive Director Dr Seemin Jamali and expressed satisfaction over steps taken by the health institute for providing health care to the suspected patients.

He called for more testing facilities in the public sector in case the number of patients increased.

Pakistan has come up with the one of world’s best “national response programmes’ against Covid-19 pandemic, said the WHO country head and urged the people to follow the precautionary and preventive measures to avoid contracting the virus, which is extremely contagious but not as lethal as some other members of the coronavirus family.

The government of Pakistan gave a timely response to the virus, he said and observed the standard operating procedures (SOPs) are being implemented very effectively.

Authorities are doing their job and now it is the responsibility of the people to follow the instructions to avoid contracting the viral disease, Dr Mahipala said.

During his visit to the Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) Ojha Campus, he inspected the diagnostic lab of the health facility as well as their isolation facility, and termed them ‘world class diagnostic and treatment facility’.

Dr Mahipala also met provincial health minister Dr Azra Pechuho and inquired about the status of diagnostic kits and personal protective equipment (PPE) and offered WHO’s support in the provision of diagnostic kits for testing suspected Covid-19 patients in Sindh.

Later talking to media, Dr Mahipala said the federal and provincial governments had arranged around 2,000 isolation beds in the country to keep the suspected patients of Covid-19 while extraordinary screening arrangements had been made at the points of entry by the authorities, which were quite helpful to keeping the virus away from the country to a large extent.

“At the moment, Pakistan has seven diagnostic labs which are capable of conducting 15,000 tests, but there is a need for more diagnostic facilities in case the number of suspected patients go up,” he said and added that authorities had even established a mobile diagnostic facility that had been dispatched to Taftan to test and diagnose suspected people coming from Iran.

Highlighting the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic, he said even countries with well-advanced health systems like South Korea and Italy had failed to contain Covid-19. He added that Pakistani authorities timely responded to the threat and took measures which resulted in keeping the virus at bay for a longer time when other counties were reporting its cases.