The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended testing and isolation of every suspected coronavirus patient, but Pakistan is following a different strategy. Earlier, due to limited capacity, patients with confirmed symptoms or with a travel history were being tested to ensure rational use of testing kits.
However, the policy might have actually backfired and become a reason to spread the virus in the country. There are cases in Islamabad and other parts of the country where people were told off by the doctors that they did not need to be tested. Some of them turned out to be carriers, resulting in the transmission of the disease to neighbors and other family members.
A resident of the Tramri area in Islamabad was one of the many suspected patients that visited the testing facility in the federal capital. But, the doctor on duty advised him to return home as he did not need to be tested. He was asked to self-quarantine for a few days and return only if the symptoms worsened. He remained untested and resultantly, the entire street had to be sealed off after several people contracted the virus.
A resident of I-10 Islamabad, Mubashir Ahmed, narrated his story in a video message. He said that his father had a cough a few weeks ago. After some time, his mother also started coughing. Later on, he also contracted the symptom.
This prompted the family to get themselves tested and they visited PIMS hospital. Upon arrival, the doctor said to him to wait as it could be seasonal flu and cough. They returned home, and after some days, his wife had flu. The family then went to Benazir Hospital in Rawalpindi for tests but received a similar response.
After a few days, he took his father to Atomic Energy Hospital where doctors recommended his tests. The results confirmed that he had contracted the virus.
Mubashir said that no one bothered to test them initially, and after the confirmation in his dad, several more cases emerged in the street and it was sealed.
When contacted, PIMS media coordinator, Dr. Waseem Khawaja said that the country does not have the capacity to test everyone.
So far we have received over 2,000 patients who suspected that they had COVID-19, but we tested only 300 of them and only 45 of them were found positive.
Dr. Khawaja said only the doctors can decide which patients to be tested. Those with cough or flu should go into isolation for five days and contact the authorities if the symptoms remain or worsen.
As coronavirus symptoms are similar to that of common flu and some other diseases, we initially decided to test only those with a traveling history. After a few weeks when cases of local transmission emerged we started testing the contacts of foreign travelers.
Pakistani authorities aren’t even considering the havoc that asymptomatic virus carriers can cause in the country unless all suspects are immediately tested for the novel coronavirus.
Since the last week of February, Pakistan has conducted over 60,000 tests, and out of which 5716 people have tested positive so far.