KARACHI: As Sindh ramps up its efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, the provincial government has taken the proactive decision to convert Karachi’s Expo Centre into a 10,000-bed isolation centre. At the same time, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah released Rs7.21 billion for the efforts to contain the coronavirus threat.
The moves are part of sweeping measures to try to prevent the outbreak of COVID-19, as at least 40 locally transmitted cases of the virus were confirmed in Sindh. Sindh’s tally of confirmed coronavirus patients reached 245 on Thursday, as 37 more cases were reported in Karachi.
In a meeting on the crisis, Shah noted the worrying trend and emphasised how the authorities in Singapore and Hong Kong contained the spread by taking swift measures. “We need to prevent the spread,” he asserted.
The deadly virus, which surfaced in China’s Hubei province late December 2019, has infected over 200,000 people globally with over 9,000 deaths. Although scientists around the globe are developing vaccine and medication, the only defence against the virus currently is through preventive measures – self-isolation or quarantine.
The Expo Centre isolation facility will be established with the support of Pakistan Army’s Corps 5. In the first phase, one hall will be converted into an isolation centre, with beds, medicines, necessary equipment, doctors and paramedical staff on hand. Later, more halls will be acquired.
City commissioner Iftikhar Shalwani is also coordinating with the federal government to transform the exhibition space into an isolation facility and establish a field hospital at the premises. “The federal government has agreed to this in principle,” he told The Express Tribune, adding that expected the few remaining formalities to be completed the same day.
The centre joins the list of other such facilities ordered by the Sindh government in the past week as the coronavirus tally continues to rise. The newly constructed labour colonies in Nooriabad, Kotri, Hyderabad and Shaheed Benazirabad are also being converted into isolation centres based on the model of the one set up in Sukkur.
Meanwhile, Shah said that he had made over 16,000 swabs and 13,000 kits available to test people for coronavirus in the province. “But we will have to enhance our testing capacity which is limited to only 600,” he added.
He stressed the need to strengthen the province’s healthcare system and directed relevant officials to immediately make newly-constructed hospitals across Sindh functional in order to deal with the outbreak more effectively.
Funds for the fight
Chairing the daily coronavirus taskforce meeting at the CM House, Shah released Rs7.21 billion for the attempts to curtail the COVID-19 threat. Of this, Rs6.9 billion were given to the Sindh health department to purchase medicines, equipment, generators, food, sanitisers, testing kits and swabs, and the remaining amount to the Sukkur commissioner for the proper care of those present at the Sukkur Labour Colony isolation centre.
“I will make more funds available to contain, curb and combat the threat of coronavirus but this will only be possible when we all will work together with spirit,” he said.
The CM was told that 757 more travellers had reached Sukkur from the Taftan border, while samples had been taken from 180 of the newly-arrived pilgrims and sent to Karachi for testing.
Another batch of 88 travellers from Taftan arrived in Larkana, meanwhile, where they are being accommodated at an isolation centre set up at Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto University. Shah directed the health department to send testing kits for them as well.
Moreover, the health department told the CM that the province’s testing capacity had been increased to 1,250 tests per day on his instructions. However, Shah asked the People’s Primary Healthcare Initiative and government hospitals to explore the establishment of testing facilities too.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 20th, 2020.