The Senate Standing Committee on Interior in its emergency meeting called today on Thursday expressed grave concerns over the confirmation of first two cases of Coronavirus in Pakistan, declared it as ‘National Security Hazzard’ and asked the government to devise Anti-Coronavirus National Action Plan to battle this deadly epidemic. The Committee discussed in detail the measures taken both by Ministry of Interior and National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination to curb the potential spread of the Coronavirus in Pakistan. In his opening remarks, Chairman Committee, Senator A. Rehman Malik lauded the services of the Armed Forces of Pakistan and said that the 27 February, is a day of pride, since on this day last year, Pakistan gave a befitting response to Indian aggression. He also welcomed President Donald Trump’s statement about Pakistan given in India and said that Pakistan has been at the forefront in the War on Terror and hoped that the US will support Pakistan in removing its name from FATF’s Grey list.
The meeting was chaired by Senator A. Rehman Malik and was attended by Senator Muhammad Javed Abbasi, Senator Dr. Shehzad Wasim, Senator Muhammad Tahir Bezenjo and Senator Mir Kabir Muhammad Shahi as mover. The meeting was also attended by Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Muhammad Azam Khan Swati, Chief Executive National Institute of Health Dr. Major General Aamir Ikram, Director General (Health) and senior officers from the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, Additional Secretary Ministry of Interior, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Defence, D.G. NADRA, Additional Director General, FIA, National Institute of Health, along with all concerned.
The Committee was informed that the Ministry of National Health Services and Regulation and Coordination on 30th January 2020 sensitized the Ministry about suspected patients of Noval Corona Virus on in-bound international flights.
The Chairman Committee Senator A. Rehman Malik said that soon after the breakout of the Coronavirus in Pakistan, he decided of calling this emergency meeting to discuss the situation in details and formulate a common counter strategy under Anti-Coronavirus National Action Plan to combat this deadly disease. He said that it is a national adversity and we all have to work unitedly above our political differences and affiliations to cope up with this national hazard. He said that he was concerned over the inadequate arrangement at airports, seaports, other entry points and even hospitals to control the epidemic. The Chairman Committee said that keeping in view the spread of Coronavirus, the government should have placed proper arrangement at all airports, seaports and entry points for the screening of all those entering Pakistan. He said that Pakistanis in hundreds have entered from Iran and other affected countries in last few days and went unchecked for Coronavirus.
Senator A. Rehman Malik directed the Ministry of Interior to identify those 7500 pilgrims who were visiting Iran for pilgrimage and have returned Pakistan in last few weeks. He said that all of them should be checked up properly for Coronavirus and also their families. He appealed all of them to volunteer themselves for proper screening and medical check-up which is in best interest of them, their families and country as a whole. He directed the Ministry of Interior to constitute a Ministerial Committee for this purpose. He directed that the families of all Pakistanis returned from Iran and other affected countries must be quarantined for 14 days and they shall be provided with free food and medicine on government expenses. He directed those who are diagnosed with the virus, their family members must be tested and be quarantined. He stressed the need for the setting up of a fund to battle this menace; and in this regard an account must be set-up within 24 hours and be made public for donations. The Committee asserted that when dealing with such patients, all international SOPs for Isolation must be followed to the dot and recommended that a dedicated facility to house such patients away from hospitals and population to protect other patients and public. He asserted that test facilities must be made available at all hospitals within 24 hours.
The Chairman Committee, Senator A. Rehman Malik urged the media to avoid hype but spread awareness about the Coronavirus among masses. He directed the PEMRA to ensure that awareness material produced by the Ministry of Health must be disseminated to all channels making it mandatory for airing. He said that across the country health emergency must be declared and PTA must direct all service providers to issue one to two-line messages in local languages to spread awareness on preventive measures to curb the spread of the Coronavirus. He also directed Ptv and Radio Pakistan to launch awareness campaigns about Coronavirus. He said that he himself witnessed that officials working at airports without wearing masks and other precautionary measures and on inquiry he was told that they are not provided with masks.
He directed the National Institute of Health to urgently provide 500 N-95 masks to the officials/staff of Airport Security Force, FIA and other law enforcement agencies deployed at airports and make it mandatory as part of their uniform. He also directed Ministry of Health and FIA to depute and facilitate the designated medical staff at all exit and entry points. He also directed the Health ministry to ensure the anti-Coronavirus arrangement and availability of N-95 masks for doctors and paramedical staff in all hospitals. He also directed for thorough vigilance at all exit/entry points at Afghanistan / Iran Borders. SSG (North/South) and Provincial Home Departments were directed to keep an eye on Chinese working on CPEC Projects as a large number of them were expected to return back from China. It was also directed that the flights returning from afflicted countries must be diverted to specially designated airports to avoid further risk. Emergency must be declared at Pak-Afghan and Pak-Iran borders.