Pakistan Polio Eradication Initiative Support to COVID-19 Response

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Pakistan reported its first case of COVID-19 on 26 February 2020. So far, the country has confirmed over 10,000 cases and over 200 deaths (by 24 April 2020).

Following the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) guidelines, all Polio campaigns in Pakistan have been suspended, at least up to 1 June 2020, except for essential activities like surveillance.

With direction of the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations, and Coordination (MoNHSR&C), and based on the need for optimal utilisation of all public health infrastructure in the country, all polio assets including surveillance, data, and communication have been rerouted since March 2020 to support COVID-19 response. Pakistan’s PEI team have organised and realigned roles and responsibilities at the National Emergency Operations Centre,
Provincial EOCs, and District levels with special efforts towards establishing and supporting the COVID-19 response. Pakistan PEI staff are supporting Pakistan’s response by strengthening surveillance, strengthening infection prevention and control, contact tracing, supporting new data systems to track the disease, and raising awareness of the disease via risk communication and community engagement.

To date, key contributions of the Polio Eradication programme include:

  • Strengthened COVID-19 surveillance through integration within existing PEI structures.

  • 4,903 COVID-19 samples have been processed by PEI personnel from 25 March 2020 to date.

  • Improved data management system through gathering and entering available data on COVID-19 in the Integrated Disease Information Management System (IDIMS) for realtime analysis and display to supporting the response’s decision-making.

  • Facilitated the establishment of big quarantine camps in Quetta, Sukkur, and Dera Ismail Khan districts. In addition, support towards investigations, screening, interviewing, and filing of risk assessment and data forms is ongoing. In total, PEI Staff have traced 16,915 contacts and have identified and isolated 1,946 symptomatic travellers. PEI staff have investigated 3,277 suspected cases and facilitated sample collection from 4,102 suspected cases.

  • Facilitated the establishment of Risk Communication and Community Engagement structures at national and provincial level. The PEI is providing continuous support with behavioural research and designing and implementing interventions for risk communication and preventive behaviours.

The National EOC Coordinator is a key member of the National Committees for the response; while national, provincial and district personnel continue to serve as essential team members of various Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) and other teams supporting the response.