Local virus transmission on the rise as 33 more test positive in Karachi

March 30, 2020

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DOGS freely roam about on deserted roads in the metropolis as pictured here on M.A. Jinnah Road on Sunday. The deadly coronavirus has diverted media attention in Sindh away from the canines and their related viral disease.—Shakil Adil / White Star
DOGS freely roam about on deserted roads in the metropolis as pictured here on M.A. Jinnah Road on Sunday. The deadly coronavirus has diverted media attention in Sindh away from the canines and their related viral disease.—Shakil Adil / White Star

KARACHI: The Sindh government’s lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus suffered a blow in the city on Sunday when more than 30 people tested positive for the pandemic due to local transmission — the highest count of secondary contact since the first case was reported last month.

A spokesperson for the Sindh health department shared the latest number that suggested that the number of patients in Karachi alone rose to 222 with 33 new cases reported on Sunday.

All the new 33 cases, the spokesperson confirmed, were of local transmission.

The fresh data shared by the provincial government suggested that there were 502 confirmed coronavirus cases in Sindh with Karachi leading the trend with 222 patients. Among the total cases, it said, 171 patients were those who suffered the infection as secondary contacts with no history of international travelling.

PM Imran orders setting up of two laboratories in the JPMC and SIUT solely for coronavirus testing

As the authorities and health workers keeping their fingers crossed, health experts appealed to the people to stay home and strictly adhere to basic hygiene measures to break the chain of coronavirus transmission.

Otherwise, they warned, the cost of ignorance and negligence could be high, particularly for the elderly persons.

According to the experts, the information so far available suggests that some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness. They include older adults and people who have serious underlying medical conditions, such as heart diseases, diabetes and lung diseases.

‘Preventive measures for young and old are same’

“The preventive measures for the old and the young are the same and the most important one is to stay home, at least for 14 days as has been asked by the government, and follow basic hygiene practices that would provide protection against all kinds of viral infections,” said Dr Naseem Salahuddin, a senior infectious diseases expert associated with the Indus Hospital.

She said the people should visit health facilities these days only when they had an emergency or required some life-saving treatment like dialysis.

“Under government instructions, outpatient departments have been shut for two weeks and elective surgeries also postponed at hospitals,” she added.

Meanwhile, speaking about the measures adopted by the provincial government to control the spread of coronovrius, Sindh Information Minister Nasir Hussain Shah said that although it was an extremely difficult decision to ban congregation prayers, including the Friday prayers, the government was left with no other choice.

“Now it’s time for the people to respond and cooperate with the government,” he said. “We can only meet the challenge through precautionary measures. Otherwise the situation would be difficult for everyone. The government will be left with no option but to impose a curfew if people don’t take lockdown orders seriously.”

He said that in order to ensure social distancing, the lockdown timings had also been increased and now all the shops, including those of groceries, vegetables, fruits and dairy products, would be closed at 5pm instead of 8pm till the situation improved.

Two labs being set up on PM’s order

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday ordered setting up of two laboratories in Karachi “as soon as possible” for solely testing the suspected cases of coronavirus, a statement issued from the Governor House said.

The decision came during a telephonic contact between the PM and Sindh Governor Imran Ismail who agreed that the city needed facilities on a war-footing basis to increase the testing capacity for coronavirus and identify the confirmed ones at a rapid pace.

“On the directives of the PM, two laboratories would be raised by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA),” said the statement issued from the Governor House. “The two labs would be set up each at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) and Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT). The move will help increase the pace of testing, identification of confirmed cases and saving lives of people.”

Later, a tweet by the Sindh governor disclosed that the labs would be starting operation next week suggesting completion of all formalities at a much faster pace.

“Under the instructions of PM @ImranKhanPTI, NDMA @ndmapk will establish 2 COVID 19 testing labs at SUIT & JPMC. These labs will start within a week inshallah. More labs to be opened all over Sindh,” tweeted Governor Ismail.

With shipments of donations from China that included thousands of kits and other healthcare products and two dedicated labs to test coronavirus cases by next week, experts believed that the country’s efforts to contain spread of the coronavirus could enter a decisive phase.

An official at the National Institute of Health said that one kit could test around 90 people in one go. With this calculation, he said, the fresh consignment of 56,000 kits from China could help test more than five million people within the next few weeks.

Apart from testing kits, the Chinese shipments also included 500,000 face masks, including 50,000 N-95 masks. The health experts believed that in overall strategy, the testing process was crucial but warned that the government had to keep an eye on several fronts at a time as part of precautionary measures.

Meanwhile, according to the statement, the Sindh governor also phoned the NDMA chief who assured him that the two new labs would be made operational in Karachi within shortest possible time.

“The PM has been quite active and personally monitoring the situation. He has been issuing directives without wasting any time on issues which demand immediate action,” the statement quoted the Sindh governor as saying.

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2020