Police must undergo regular virus screening

Disregard for social distancing during duty may put them at risk

Muhammad Shahzad April 01, 2020
LAHORE: Punjab Police has played an important role in implementing ‘social distancing’ measures introduced by the government through the imposition of Section 144 and partial lockdown.

But during the process, some serious gaps have been observed that need to be filled.

Lahore police have over 30,000 officials that is a huge number. There was a need for sensitising all of them about preventive measures to stop the spread of coronavirus.

It is worth noting that fundamental principles of social distancing have been witnessed blatantly violated not only by lower cadre officials but officers as senior as superintendent of police (SP).

A few days back, bunches of police officials led by SPs visited different hospitals and gathered doctors and allied staff. During the exercise, the principle of maintaining a safe distance of at least three feet was ignored.

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The senior officers were also seen supervising police stopping people from going to mosques to offer Friday prayers. On the other hand, they themselves were coming into contact with crowds from the communities on the occasion.

Dolphin Squad SP Ayesha Butt during her visit to Ganga Ram Hospital a day earlier advised officials deployed at quarantine centres to stay at a distance of three feet from people during duty. On Friday, she was found violating this principle in pictures and videos shared through the media wing.

Police are one of the very few sections of the society that are out of their homes and interacting actively with people, including patients and potential carriers of the virus.

The number of people at risk is not just 30,000 personnel but their families. They regularly return home after performing field duties during the partial lockdown and dealing with the public at large.

There was a need to devise a strategy to ensure that they had minimum physical contact with other people.

Secondly, there was a need for screening all of them at regular intervals. So far, there has been no news that a police official was tested positive or quarantined.

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Repeated screening was necessary because the officials are interacting with the people on a daily basis. Most importantly, the officers are also interacting with the subordinates performing different duties from isolation and quarantine centres to road pickets as well as for shifting the suspected and confirmed patients.

A regular schedule of screening is not only necessary but should be mandatory. If this aspect is not considered, these guardians being deemed as heroes may prove to be the biggest carriers as well as spreaders of the pandemic. And it may not take very long.

Besides social distancing, the World Health Organization (WHO) has also recommended “Tests, tests, tests” as a way to fight Covid-19.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 1st, 2020.


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