ISLAMABAD - The federal government on Wednesday prepared an emergency plan to deal with the Ebola virus; as per which, the incoming passengers from African countries will be screened and medical personnel will be trained.

A high-level meeting to discuss how to deal with the deadly Ebola virus took place in Islamabad. The meeting approved creation of ‘Ebola counters’ at the airports, temporary clinics and special wards in the hospitals.

It was also decided that the Pakistan army personnel arriving from the peacekeeping mission from African countries will be monitored for 21 days. The provincial governments have also been directed to arrange screening and monitoring of passengers coming from African countries. Saira Afzal Tarar, minister for national health services, regulation and coordination, has directed to nominate federal and provincial director generals health as focal persons on Ebola virus disease (EVD) coordinating body.

The minister issued these directives while chairing a high-level meeting in the ministry on Wednesday wherein a detailed action plan was chalked out in consultation with all stakeholders and development partners.

The meeting was attended by federal and provincial level health officials, army officials, representatives of Civil Aviation Authority, development partners including United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organisation (WHO).  In the meeting it was agreed upon to notify a coordination body with representation of all partners and stakeholders and assign responsibilities to undertake major tasks.

The minister stressed on high quality trainings for health officials as well as CAA staff deputed at the entry and exit points of the airports. She also directed the provinces to identify hospitals in every province and at federal level with isolation rooms for Ebola patients. The minister directed to initiate a strong awareness campaign throughout the country and include community level participation.

The WHO committed to carry out extensive trainings for the staff while UNICEF health section has committed to supporting the government of Pakistan in developing a comprehensive communication plan and IEC material for Ebola virus awareness across the country. Tarar said that ministry had taken various measures to provide guidance, advice and capacity building to take preventive measures, identify suspect cases Ebola virus disease (EVD) and manage the infected cases as the ministry had an important role to play through coordination with UN agencies, provinces and Pakistan Army. The WHO declared Ebola as international health threat in August 2014. Though Pakistan has a low risk for Ebola transmission, the ministry has ensured all requisite measures in accordance with WHO and international guidelines.

The advisories were issued by the ministry on 18th August 2014 regarding the measures to mitigate the threat of EVD to all the provincial chief secretaries, additional secretary FATA, DG Military Operation, provincial health secretaries, secretary CADD, chairman CDA, chief commissioner Islamabad, surgeon general Pakistan Army, provincial director general health services and director central health establishment.