As one deadly disease tops another, the fight against polio is brought to a halt as all efforts are currently being directed towards fighting Coronavirus. Pakistan’s National Emergency Operation Centre for polio has also been directed to assist in the country’s fight against COVID-19.
Dr Rana Muhammad Safdar, the coordinator for the Center has announced dedicated support, emphasizing that the program is using all its existing resources to collect and report local data of suspected cases of the virus.
When it comes to discussing how Pakistan is tracking the COVID-19 cases – the first thing is surveillance. When any patient walks into any hospital or clinic with the symptoms of COVID-19, the Centre is informed. Of the cases reported, the ones who fit the symptoms, get tested. Secondly, the National Emergency Centre is using “contact-tracing” to identify people who came in contact with a confirmed patient. The polio program already has rapid response teams on the ground in every district. These teams are now being redeployed to track suspected cases.
Thirdly, and this is still in its early phases, a new strategy that has recently been introduced is “find and trace”. The government will use the phone numbers of confirmed patients and look at who they called in the last two weeks. Then those people will be reached out to, assuming there was some form of physical contact. This may feel like a breach of privacy, and only makes us think of all the methods employed by China to contain the virus, which were far more draconian and intrusive than this.
We certainly hope that scientists manage to find a cure soon. Till then, stay home, stay safe. And please, maintain social distancing and DO NOT FORGET TO WASH YOUR HANDS.