LAHORE: Families of coronavirus patients admitted to hospitals and quarantine centres in Punjab will be allowed to meet them from a distance of eight feet or see them through windows on Eidul Fitr.

The Punjab Health Department has prepared  a plan for Eid celebration by the patients and their families, while standard operating procedures (SOPs) have also been finalised for the purpose.

Around 18,000 patients of coronavirus are admitted in the designated wards of hospitals of 36 districts in the province as well as qurantine centres. Over 300 deaths due to the disease have been confirmed. The government always makes special arrangements for Eid in hospitals but this year those being kept in quarantine centres to prevent the spread of the pandemic will also be taken care of.

“Patients can meet their families after following the SOPs announced by the government. But it will be best that people meet the patients for a short time as it is also necessary for their own safety,” said a spokesperson for the Punjab Health Department.

The Eid plan for the patients was discussed at a meeting of senior officials of the health department.

In first step, meetings of patients with their families were allowed at the Lahore Expo Centre quarantine facility. According to the plan, family members may meet the patients between 3pm and 5pm.

Under the SOPs, wearing mask is compulsory for meeting a patient during Eid days and the duration will be 30 minutes, with some relaxation possible during the holidays. However, children and elderly relatives will not be allowed to meet the patients. The visitors will have to keep a distance of at least eight feet with the patients.

Families will be allowed to give gifts, flowers and food to the patients.

The meetings have started at the Expo Centre and the permission will be granted for all hospitals and quarantine centres during Eid holidays, an official of the health department said.

The families of the patients immediately started preparations to meet them after the government decision.

“My brother is in the isolation ward of Mayo Hospital as he tested positive for coronavirus. The whole family, especially my nephews, are tense. It is a happy news for us that the government is providing opportunities of meeting patients as earlier we were worried how our Eid would be without our brother who is the head of our family. We have prepared his dress and will cook food for him. The whole family will go to the hospital and meet him accoding to the SOPs,” said Muhammad Wasif, a resident of Shadman.

Meanwhile, most of the patients who have tested negative for coronavirus after fresh tests are being released from hospitals.

As a large number of patients will stay at the quarantine centres during the Eid holidays, doctors, paramedics and police will also continue carrying out their special duties.

The patients also include 86 prisoners kept in quarantine facilities set up in jails.

So far, over 5,000 people have recovered from the disease in the province.

Sources said that the patients are being kept in quarantine centres so that their families and other people do not get infected if they are sent home. Those testing negative after recovering from the disease within a certain period of time are sent home.

However, doctors say a large number of new cases are being reported and the patients are being sent to hospitals and quarantine centres according to the need.

The doctors said Punjab has the capacity to test more than 7,000 people daily and so far more than 180,000 people have been tested, while more tests will be conducted in the coming days.

Sources said some patients in the quarantine centres and their relatives … 

Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2020.