President Dr Arif Alvi on Monday said an integrated health system at national and provincial levels was important to fight critical diseases including the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Talking to media persons during his visit to National Institute of Health (NIH), the President said the reported cases of coronavirus across the country necessitated a framework of data exchange with provinces for a more coordinated strategy to contain the spread of disease.

President Alvi said he would be visiting Quetta this Wednesday accompanied by PM’s Special Assistant on Health Dr Zafar Mirza, to personally oversee the measures taken against coronavirus and provision of health facilities for the affected people.

The President lauded the initiatives taken by NIH including testing of COVID-19 and running a related Integrated Disease Management System based on data collected from provinces.

He suggested NIH to formulate a set of guidelines for hospitals across the country so as to define a particular course of action for medical facilities.

Executive Director NIH Maj. Gen. Aamer Ikram briefed the President on activation of Public Health Emergency Operations Center on January 21 as COVID-19 response and also engaging the partners across the country.

He said due to coordinated efforts among concerned departments, Pakistan was amongst the last countries of Asia which was infected by COVID-19 in late February.

He said under Ministry of National Health Services and Regulations, the NIH provided full support in developing National Action Plan for COVID-19 and was continuously engaged in response and risk communication activities since January 27.

The President was apprised that the NIH initiated the nationwide testing facility for COVID-19 on February 1 and also extended the diagnostic and capacity building support to Balochistan, Northern Punjab, Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.

Maj. Gen Aamer Ikram informed the President that NIH also launched a COVID-19 surveillance system and made 1.7 million follow-up calls for passengers’ surveillance and response in the country.

He said NIH extended technical support by providing five Rapid Response Teams in the field 24/7 for investigation and sample of high-risk population group besides developing a real-time situation report on daily basis in coordination with all provincial and regional stakeholders to depict countrywide picture of COVID-19 epidemic.

The President also took round of various departments of NIH including Public Health Emergency Operation Center and the new unit of Biological Production Division-SERA Processing Laboratory with enhanced capacity of the production of anti-snake venom.