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Thermal scanners being installed at airports to prevent cross-border disease transmission

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) is installing thermal scanners at airports and other points of entry to prevent cross-border disease transmission.

While visiting Islamabad International Airport (IIA) on Wednesday, NHS Minister Aamer Mehmood Kiani said the PTI government is emphasising the strengthening of health departments and the Directorate of Central Health Establishment (CHE) at all points of entry, particularly airports.

“Funds have been allocated by the Ministry of NHS for improvement in infrastructure and uniforms at health departments at all international borders,” he said.

The CHE is responsible for the implementation of the 2005 International Health Regulations across the country, and takes various measures to protect people from communicable diseases coming via international borders. Polio, yellow fever and meningitis vaccinations are carried out for this purpose.

All international flights are also screened for endemic disease, suspected passengers are quarantined and all ports are kept in sanitary condition to control the spread of disease.

Mr Kiani said Prime Minister Imran Khan signed a memorandum of understanding during his visit to China to prevent cross-border disease transmission, after which thermal scanners have been made operational at airports in Islamabad, Peshawar, Lahore and Karachi. They are being installed at all points of entry into the country.

The minister also said the CHE will soon be equipped with improved networking. A website to raise awareness among passengers about health-related problems regarding international travel will be launched soon, and quarantine and isolation facilities will be provided at all airports.

Polio vaccinations are being provided to those travelling abroad in an emergency, and the visibility of this facility has been increased through public messaging.

The minister also directed for measures to be taken to improve health security at all international borders and issued instructions for better health facilities at ports and land crossings.

He said funds were allocated by the NHS ministry for improvement in the infrastructure, equipment and uniforms at the health department.

There are a number of diseases that can spread from one country to another. In 2014, the Ebola virus spread in Africa and international airlines were instructed to follow standard operating procedure regarding passengers with a travel history of West Africa.

Polio is another such virus, regarding which Pakistan has been advised by the Independent Monitoring Board on Polio to ensure everyone exiting Pakistan is vaccinated. Similarly, in 2016 a travel advisory was issued for Brazil regarding the Zika virus, which spread through mosquitoes.

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