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Lethality of viruses no less than bio-weapons: AJK president

MUZAFFARABAD, May 27: The AJK President Sardar Masood Khan has stressed the need of activating global health diplomacy to project future threats of pandemics and to create platforms to consolidate the resources and solutions offered by multilateral organisations, governments, the private sector, and research institutions.

“During the current Covid-19 pandemic, it has become clear that the World Health Organisation should be put at the centre stage to provide overall leadership and decision-making for combating pandemics,” he said.

He made these remarks while speaking as chief guest at a seminar on Pandemic Preparedness: Science and Countermeasures organised by Dr Zabta Shinwari of Quaid-e-Azam University.

He said that Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) was a landmark in prohibiting the use of weapons of mass destruction. Both conventional wisdom and scientific evidence indicate that the outbreak of the coronavirus was accidental. However, he maintained the biggest threat to humanity in this century has come not from chemical or nuclear weapons but from a single-stranded pathogen – coronavirus.

Sardar Masood Khan said that as president of the 2006 BWC Review Conference and as Chairman of the 2007 BWC States Parties, he had emphasised on enabling the regime to monitor and foresee threats substantiated by rapid scientific and technological evidence.  We have learnt the hard way that the potential range and lethality of viruses are no less than that of bio-weapons, he added.

The state president exhorted the need of investing productively in health research in order to prevent and contain the viral disease and to develop capabilities to produce vaccines, upgrade diagnostics and improve hospital care.

He said we need to reinvigorate our efforts to swiftly achieve the 3rd Sustainable Goal that is Good Health and Well-being. “This will be possible only by developing universal healthcare frameworks that would enable us to address existing inequalities in access to healthcare and vaccines and their affordability for all segments of society,” he added.

Asserting that relevant sciences and real-time data should be made the linchpin for management of pandemics, he called for strictly prohibiting the culture of hearsay, snake oil salesmanship and quackery, and said that the effectiveness of vaccines and drugs, as well as the sanitising, protective and medical equipment, should come from authentic scientific sources and must steer clear of national rivalries.

About the measures taken by the AJK government, the state president said we have established testing labs, isolation centers, vaccination points, and hospital centers in the liberated territory to diagnose and treat corona patients. What we need most urgently, he went on to say, are oxygen cylinders and concentrators which are crucial for saving lives. Oxygen, he said, is a lifeline for corona patients. The state government has handled food security issues well with the help of the Government of Pakistan and philanthropic organisations.

He said that we grapple with the third ruinous wave of the virus, as the so-called herd immunity has not so far developed because of the constant and unpredictable mutation of this lethal pathogen.

Similarly in Pakistan, he maintained that we have a new opportunity to upgrade and coalesce the efforts of national institutions. The National Command Operation Centre (NCOC)’s focal stewardship, supported by the National Institute of Health (NIH), Ministry of Health, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), armed forces, and law enforcement agencies had been successful experiments. We have learned that combating pandemics is not a sprint but a slow and painful marathon, he added.

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