Rescuers brave rising tide of Covid-19 in Punjab

Emergency service staff performing frontline duties along with police, doctors

Muhammad Shahzad June 08, 2020
PHOTO: REUTERS

LAHORE: Frontline workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic in the country, including the Rescue 1122 staff, continue to remain at risk of contracting the virus.

As many as 18 confirmed and two suspected cases of the disease have emerged among Rescue 1122 workers during the past two months.

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the workers of Rescue 1122 perform the duties of treatment, shifting and burial of patients along with the police and medical community. These rescuers provide services at a time when being infected also becomes a source of stigma in society and in some cases the families and friends also abandon the victims of the virus.

A few days ago, a professor died due to Covid-19 in Ferozewala. His family abandoned his body at their house and left for an undisclosed location due to fear of contracting the virus and being quarantined. Later, police and Rescue 1122 arranged the burial.

In such a scenario of panic and fear, the jobs of frontline workers, including police, medical staff and Rescue 1122 has become difficult because of health risks.

A large number of coronavirus cases have been reported in all the departments. Hundreds of medical workers have been infected and many of them lost their lives.

In the police, many personnel have lost their lives, while some senior officers have also tested positive for the disease.

In this situation, the rescue workers have been performing the risky service of shifting suspected and confirmed Covid-19 patients to hospitals and quarantine centres as well as arranging their burial.

Rawalpindi is the most affected district for rescuers in the province as at least nine cases among Rescue 1122 workers have been reported there.

Two cases were reported from Lahore and one each from Attock, Jhelum, the Emergency Services Academy, Sargodha, Rahim Yar Khan, Lodhran, Bahawalnagar, Kasur and Khanewal.

Rana Sohail is one such frontline worker who has resumed duty after recovering from the disease. He is an emergency medical technician (EMT) at Rescue 1122 in Lahore. He said that when fighting the pandemic was taken up as a national cause and an anti-coronavirus squad was formed, he volunteered for the task. “The rescuers were asked to volunteer for the purpose. It was the rescuers themselves who expressed their willingness to join the duty.”

Afterwards, the volunteers went through a training process as the job was of unique nature and involved vigilance, he added. “I was well aware of the consequences and challenges of taking up this duty.”  “I knew that I may get infected and may also endanger my family. However, the motivation for me to undertake this risky task was to save as many lives as possible,” he added.

He further said that rescuers were the only workers who would perform services for the bodies of the victims of the disease when everyone would abandon them. “Wearing proper Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), as per guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO), includes a proper suit, gloves, shoes, goggles and helmet.”

He highlighted that there were trained people to perform duties in such a crisis and they were an asset of the country. Sohail maintained that he would continue performing his duty with more resolve despite chances of being infected again.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 8th, 2020.

 

 

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