Coronavirus: Sindh health dept raises concerns on new policy for repatriating overseas Pakistanis

KARACHI: The Sindh Health Department raised alarm over the Centre’s new policy regarding the repatriation of overseas Pakistanis on Thursday.

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Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Security Moeed Yousuf had announced the government’s new policy according to which overseas Pakistanis were being sent home to isolate after having their tests conducted.

The Sindh government had expressed its reservations over the Centre’s policy to send passengers home without obtaining their results. Before this, overseas Pakistanis repatriated to the country were quarantined for 24 hours.

The passengers were allowed to leave for home if their COVID-19 test results came back negative otherwise, they were quarantined for 14 days.

The Sindh Health Department voiced concerns that passengers returning from abroad would meet their relatives and friends which could increase transmission of the virus.

The health department said that by allowing these passengers to go home without obtaining their results first could lead to a surge in the coronavirus cases.

The provincial health department has apprised Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah regarding the situation.

123 passengers from Saudi Arabia test positive for COVID-19

In a recent flight that arrived in Karachi from Saudi Arabia on Thursday, 123 passengers out of 246 tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Sindh government.

Taking to Twitter, Chief Minister Sindh’s advisor on law Senator Murtaza Wahab said that the federal government wanted to resume flight operations and allow people in without conducting their tests. However, Sindh government took the initiative to conduct tests of passengers who arrived and will now have to trace them to isolate them.

“Out of 246 people who landed in Karachi from Saudi Arabia, 123 people have tested COVID-19 positive. Federal Govt wanted the flights to open & allow people in without tests. Sindh Govt took tests of the passengers & will now have to trace the passengers and isolate them,” he wrote on Twitter.

A source at the federal level has said that unofficially federal government has decided to go with the herd immunity policy.

According to Pakistan Medical Association general secretary Dr Qaise Sajjad, herd immunity is the process when most of a population is immune to an infectious disease, this provides indirect protection—or herd immunity (also called herd protection)—to those who are not immune to the disease.

“For example, if 80% of a population is immune to a virus, four out of every five people who encounter someone with the disease won’t get sick (and won’t spread the disease any further),” he said.

In this way, the spread of infectious diseases is kept under control. Depending on how contagious infection is, usually, 70% to 90% of a population needs immunity to achieve herd immunity, he added.

Govt announces new policy for repatriating overseas Pakistanis

Dr Moeed Yousuf on Wednesday announced a new policy for overseas Pakistanis being repatriated back to the country, saying that the number of passengers being brought back to the country have been increased on directives of PM Imran.

He said that 20,000 passengers will be repatriated by June 10. This makes it 10,000 more overseas Pakistanis who have been repatriated to the country, compared to the previous stage of the whole process.

“The testing process has been further expedited and from today onwards, passengers will be tested on their arrival,” Yousuf maintained, adding that the repatriated Pakistanis will be sent home to self-isolate without waiting for the test results.

When they are obtained, the test results will be included in the track and trace system.

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