Coronavirus, global emergency

After the rise of death toll to 213 from coronavirus infection in China, World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared global emergency to prevent the spread of this virus to more and more countries. The virus has already reached to 22 countries. But at the same time WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesies has told in a media briefing that they are not recommending trade and travel ban on China but urged for making coordinated efforts to combat the threat of coronavirus. He said that main purpose behind declaring global coronavirus emergency is to stem its spread to countries which have weak healthcare system. Majority of the countries including Pakistan have weak healthcare systems.

The developed countries including Japan, the UK, European Union States and Australia have started evacuation of their citizens and the United States has issued travel advisory, warning its citizens to avoid travel to China. The Australian citizens, who were evacuated from China, have been taken to an isolated Island for putting them in Quarantine and subsequent treatment. European Union member country, Italy has refused entry to passenger ship entry into it seaport because a Chinese couple was also on board.

Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan has suspended flights to China till February 2. The passengers who are coming from other countries are put to screening before their immigration formalities and are being sprayed with anti-coronavirus spray. The same spray is also being done inside the airplanes that come from other countries.

Parents of students who are studying in China are deeply worried about the health of their children in the cities wherefrom coronavirus infected cases has been reported. In the city of Wuhan of the central Chinese Province Hubei 600 students are studying in different Universities. In this city alone 10000 people have been reported to be infected from coronavirus. Former Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has agitated the issue of evacuating all Pakistanis from China in the Parliament. But later, in a press conference Advisor to the Prime Minister on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza told that government has decided that Pakistani citizens shall not evacuated because if one infected person landed in the country the virus may spread like forest fire across the country.

The opinion of health advisor has been corroborated by medical fraternity as there is no Quarantine facility in the country except Karachi, which may also be not functional. It merits mention that the flights of British Airways that are bringing back home the UK citizens have teams of Royal Army doctors and nurses on board. The returnees are directly taken to hospitals for Quarantine and screening. They are being kept there for the completion of incubation period of coronavirus if any. It gives credence to the point of view of Doctor Zafar Mirza that Pakistanis in China will avail state-of-art screening and treatment facilities if they get infected. Although Pakistan has closed its border with China, yet there may be a possibility that people of Gilgit Baltistan province that adjoins the Xinjiang province of China frequently visit that province and some of them may have returned in the past few days. These returnees have to be located and screened out to find out whether they are the carriers of that virus. There are reports that coronavirus has adopted a new form after mutation this time. It not only attacks the respiratory system but also other systems in human body such as gastrointestinal tract, Blood Vascular system and even nervous system. There are no state-of-the art screening, Quarantine and treatment facilities of coronavirus infected people in Pakistan. Moreover, no research literature has been published in the topnotch medical journals. All these findings justify government’s decision against the evacuation from China. However, the outbreak of coronavirus in China serves a lesson for the political leadership to take immediate decision for establishing Virology Lab at National Health Laboratories Islamabad and recruit high caliber experts to run this facility efficiently for screening tests and preparation of vaccines for which have already been developed in other countries for other  viral diseases.