Special Adviser to Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr Faisal Sultan on Thursday said Pakistan was committed to containing the coronavirus outbreak while ensuring that gains made in other areas so far are not impeded.

While addressing the WHO Virtual Press Conference on the latest Covid-19 situation in the Eastern Mediterranean region, Dr Sultan said that Pakistan was adapting its response as the situation evolved.

The SAPM said that Pakistan was a country affected not just by Covid-19 but was also battling polio.

“Our populations are exposed to insecurity, natural disasters, and other emergencies,” he said. “Our decade long efforts to eradicate this disease [polio] are now being impacted by COVID-19, as polio staff and resources are diverted to the pandemic response.”

He said that Pakistan has made many achievements in battling Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, and has been able to significantly reduce transmission by July and August this year.

“However, like many countries around the world, easing of lockdowns resulted in a resurgence of cases in October. This required a strategic review of our response,” he said.

In October, a team from WHO’s Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean visited Pakistan to review some of the lessons learned to strategize and offer technical guidance and recommendations for a stronger, more robust response to COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

“There was a recognised need for rapid review on what worked well and what needs to be improved for planning a more effective response to the pandemic,” Dr Faisal maintained.

The specific objectives included providing technical assistance in strategic planning in the short, middle and longer-term for the following four pillars of the Covid-19 response which are reviewing progress towards integrated disease surveillance and response, examining the situation on the Points of Entry (PoE), initiating work on essential health services to align with the targets for Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and reviewing risk communication and community engagement.

The SAPM said Covid-19 has led Pakistan to rethink the approach to managing PoE and outlined five findings.

“Sustainable human resource with capacity building; prioritize investments in new quarantine infrastructure and mapping of available facilities; establish professional training programme for PoE tailored for both health and non-health staff; restructure and modify physical PoE premises to reduce risk of transmission; data management and sharing with stakeholders.”

He further said that there were well functioning multiple disease surveillance systems in Pakistan. Some outstanding achievements with case-based reporting like polio, VPD, Covid-19 and solid aggregated reporting for some vertical programme using DHIS2 like Malaria, TB and HIV.

However, he stressed that it was clear that there was a need to progressively build and expand integrated programs and geographical coverage with governance implementation and resource management, data convergence, strengthening key technical aspects and ensuring quality assurance.

SAPM said that Pakistan was heavily dependent on the country’s wealth of experience acquired on social and digital media platforms, as well as local community-based workers that also included listening tools used for rumour management and two-way communication with communities.

“There are, however, limited resources and seasoned expertise dedicated to risk communication at federal and provincial levels, the capacity building lacks integration and need for consolidating all monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, and this is an area we are working on to build together with partners,” he added.

He underscored that the response to Covid-19 should not allow up to forget the need to continue essential health care services.

This content was originally published here.