• ENT surgeon becomes latest victim as Covid-19 cases cross 12,500 mark
• Pakistan not manufacturing vaccine, says PM’s aide
• Doctors reiterate demand for strict lockdown
ISLAMABAD: Just a week after acceding to the demand of the clergy regarding congregational prayers, the government has cautioned people that the coronavirus can rapidly spread in the month of Ramazan, rendering the frail health system incapable of accommodating all patients.
The warning came from Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza on Saturday hours after an ENT surgeon in Peshawar died from coronavirus amid doctors’ concerns over the government measures to contain local transmission of the contagion.
As the tally of confirmed virus cases surged past 12,500 with more than 260 deaths, the PM’s aide warned the masses that they should change their routine of visiting shops and mosques. “The trend observed on the first of Ramazan was not encouraging at all,” he said, adding that Covid-19 could rapidly spread during the holy month.
“Traditionally rush is observed at shops at the time of iftar. The situation on Saturday evening was not different than that of past years. People need to understand that if we don’t follow the precautionary measures, the situation may become worse. Pakistan is passing through a crucial, critical time when the disease can spread rapidly. I request the masses that they should change their routine of iftar, sehar and visiting mosques,” he warned while speaking at a news conference.
The PM’s aide said doctors from across the country had held press conferences and expressed their concerns.
“I believe that doctors are aware of the situation of hospitals and our capacity issues. I request you not to go to the places of rush.”
He told the media that for doctors, the government had launched a website under the Yaran-i-Watan programme so that overseas Pakistani health professionals could register themselves to volunteer their services in the fight against Covid-19. “Prime Minister Imran Khan also tweeted in that regard on Saturday,” he said.
Also a website (telehealth.gov.pk) had been launched for doctors to register themselves for telemedicine, the PM’s aide added.
About speculations that a vaccine was being made in Pakistan, Dr Mirza said: “Pakistan is not manufacturing the vaccine, but a Chinese company has contacted us to become part of trial of vaccine. We have contacted the company for the documentation and we will take a number of steps, including addressing ethical issues, before allowing [the trial].
“However, it will take time and those who think that a vaccine will be available in a few months are not right.”
He made it clear that there was no medicine available for the treatment of Covid-19 patients though research was being done across the world.
“A similar research is being done in Japan on anti-viral medicine and the embassy of Japan in Pakistan has contacted us for trials in Pakistan. We have requested for the documents and decision will be made after analysing the documents. It is too early to say that medicine will be available,” he said.
While sharing the global data, the PM’s aide said 2.8 million people have been infected with the disease and over 197,000 have lost their lives, while 800,000 patients have recovered.
“In Pakistan, over 138,000 tests have been conducted. In the past 24 hours, 785 cases and 16 deaths were reported. The disease is being transmitted locally and only 21 per cent cases have been reported in foreign travels. As many as 2,755 persons have recovered in Pakistan,” he said.
Doctor loses life
Meanwhile, Dr Javaid, who contracted Covid-19 in the line of duty, died in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Dr Javaid, 51, fell critically ill on April 10 and was shifted to the ICU where he was put on a ventilator. His colleagues fought valiantly to save his life but to no avail. He left behind three children, a daughter and two sons.
Born on September 15, 1967 in Abazae village Charsadda Abazae, he did his MBBS from Khyber Medical College, Peshawar, in 1991 and obtained FCPS degree in ear nose and throat (ENT) from College of Physicians in 1998 and a degree in the same specialty from The Royal College of Surgeons, England in 2003.
He started his teaching career in Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar, as senior registrar in May 2005 and was posted as Assistant Professor HMC in January 2006 where he reached rank of professor. Dr Javaid had more than 16 publications to his credit.
HMC Medical Director Prof Shehzad Akbar Khan described him as a true professional, thorough gentleman, trusted friend and a dedicated family person whose absence would always be felt.
“Prof Javaid was the motivational force behind the CCF that we had established a month ago to effectively manage the Covid-19 patients. He led from the front and visited the patients frequently,” the director said.
KP Chief Minster Mahmood Khan along with Chief Secretary Dr Kazim Niaz visited the HMC where they offered condolences with Dr Javaid’s colleagues and assured the health professionals of government support.
“The government will strongly recommend Dr Javaid for the highest civilian award for his brave fight against Covid-19. We will not leave his family alone,” the CM was later quoted by a press release issued from the HMC.
Press conferences by doctors
Earlier, Young Consultants Association, Pakistan, Chairman Dr Asfandyar Khan addressing a press conference at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) demanded that the government ensure the protection of frontline health professionals as well as strict lockdown.
He rejected the health professional allowance, equal to one basic salary, announced by the government.
“The situation across the country is continuously worsening so we demand that strict lockdown should be announced.”
In another press conference held at the National Press Club, Islamabad, Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA) President Dr Iftikhar Burney expressed deep concerns over the current Covid-19 situation and on the measures taken by the government for relaxing the lockdown at the time when it was most needed.
The PIMA demanded strict enforcement of lockdown and prevention of congregations of all sorts to contain the rapid spread of Covid-19.
Doctors in Quetta, Karachi and Lahore had already been asking the government to ensure effective measures including provision of personal protective equipment to health professionals and strict lockdown to deal with the situation.
Ashfaq Yusufzai in Peshawar also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, April 26th, 2020