The lack of testing facilities on entry and exit points of Karachi, has left the throbbing metropolis unable to ascertain viral cases among intercity commuters traveling to or from the city. Where the Sindh government had tightened restrictions in the past to curb the spread of Covid-19 within the province, absence of rapid testing mechanisms on city borders, has left Karachi prone to an inter-city contamination.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Imranul Haq, a volunteer working for a local NGO, said that people in Karachi, like the rest of the country, have been increasingly infected with the coronavirus for the past year and a half. While the pandemic has also had a severe economic impact on the financial capital.
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“Karachi has three points which are used as points of entrance and exit, including one at the Super Highway. The other two points are situated at National Highway and the Hub River Road. In addition to these roadways, one route connects Karachi to other provinces by train. Yet none of these point have a Covid-19 testing or vaccination centre set up by the Sindh government,” he corroborated.
According to the NGO worker, Karachi is home to thousands of rural-urban migrants, as well as migrants from other parts of the country, most of whom had travelled to their hometowns in advance of Eidul Fitr. However, upon their return to the city after the extended break, none were checked for any viral infection that they may have been exposed to in their hometowns. “Hundreds of people continue to commute to and from the city by bus, train and private vehicles every day. But since there is no check on land routes, there is no way of knowing who’s infected and who is not,” Haq informed.
In this regard, Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) Secretary General Dr Qaiser Sajjad said that the only solution to contain the pandemic is to implement corona SOPs. The Sindh government, he projected, will have to increase the number of vaccination centers. He further urged that the provincial authorities should immediately launch an awareness campaign for vaccination and make Covid-19 testing and vaccination mandatory for intercity travelers. “The government should set up testing centers at railway stations as well as all road entrances and exits of the city and restrict travel to only those who are corona-free or who have undergone vaccination. People involved in cargo transportation should also be screened for the virus, as they too can act as carriers,” he highlighted.
The PMA general secretary further advised intercity commuters to get coronavirus vaccination as soon as possible and upon observation of any symptoms of the virus, quarantine themselves for 14 days.
In the same vein, Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani said that the Sindh government is taking concrete steps to control the situation. “The country's largest Covid-19 vaccination center has been set up at the Expo Center in Karachi while the scope of the vaccination centers is being further expanded. The government would try to set up testing and vaccination centers at the entrances and exits of the city,” he told The Express Tribune.