Diocese of Lahore dedicates second week of Lent to Covid-19 cure

Nadeem Yousaf, standing, national humanitarian coordinator for Caritas Pakistan, briefs staff about the response to the Covid-19 outbreak. Photo: UCAN/Kamran Chaudhry

LAHORE (UCAN): “Sometimes man creates weapons of his own destruction and tries to battle God. The scientists may have failed in finding the reason for its growth and prevention but God can save us from such afflictions,” said Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore, in a video message aired on Catholic TV on March 1, as the archdiocese dedicated the second week of Lent to scientists trying to find a cure for the Covid-19 coronavirus. 

“Instead of getting afraid or locking yourself at home in obsession, pray for the scientists. I pray for a cure that enables us to lead our lives with dignity and save us from depression,” the archbishop exhorted, adding a call to observe special fasting until March 6.

Zafar Mirza, the state minister for Health, confirmed the fifth Covid-19 case in Pakistan in a March 3 tweet which said: “Patient is stable and is being managed well. I request the media to respect the privacy of the patient and the family.” 

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has already established a 300-bed temporary quarantine facility for Covid-19 in Islamabad.

“All travellers arriving in Pakistan from Iran, China and other countries battling the Covid-19 emergency will be quarantined in this centre for 15 days,” said a spokesperson for the NDMA.

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Isolation wards have also been established in all provinces at a distance from populated areas. The authorities have suspended all flights to Iran and closed land borders with neighbouring countries including China, Iran and Afghanistan. The federal government has installed automatic thermal scanners at major airports across the country.

All educational institutions in Sindh and Balochistan provinces will also remain closed until March 13 and 15 respectively. These include 58 Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Karachi including two Church-run colleges.

“All ongoing examinations have been postponed. We are trying to prevent the spread of the virus by limiting the contact of students. Further steps will be taken upon government notice. Face masks are not available in medical stores despite a ban by the government of Pakistan on the export of masks,” Shameem Khursheed, principal of St. Patrick’s College, explained.

Caritas Pakistan plans to initiate a public awareness campaign to combat the virus. Executive secretaries from seven diocesan units and programme coordinators attended a special briefing on March 2 at Caritas Pakistan National Secretariat in Lahore about the response by the Catholic charity.  

“A special advisory has been issued to staff from travelling abroad and several Caritas Asia meetings have been cancelled in foreign countries. We are reviewing the situation very critically and focusing on possible preparedness,” executive director, Amjad Gulzar, said.

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“Staff members have been given WHO-certified breathing self-tests to check themselves regularly and guide communities,” he added.

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