Govt predicts surge in cases by May 30

Published May 1, 2020
Health ministry data suggests that over 150,000 people will be infected with the deadly virus by end of May.  — AP/File
Health ministry data suggests that over 150,000 people will be infected with the deadly virus by end of May. — AP/File

ISLAMABAD: As more cases of the novel coronavirus and deaths were reported across the country on Thursday, the health ministry data suggests that over 150,000 people will be infected with the deadly virus by May 30.

The graph of cases, which is continuously rising, will flatten in June and will start falling in July this year. Moreover, the stock of ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) is sufficient for May, but there will be a shortage in June unless their local production starts.

On the other hand, the Sindh government on Thursday put to rest all speculations about any further ease in lockdown during Ramazan in the province when the government circle leaked a notification issued in last week of April clearly stating the current curbs and business hours would remain in place till the end of the holy month.

“The order shall come into force at once and shall rem­ain in place till the end of Ramazan,” said the notification issued by the provincial home department on April 23. “Restriction on timing for coming out of homes from 5pm to 8am with the exceptions already given in the order dated April 14, 2020 shall continue. Business as allowed from 8am to 5pm for permissible activities with certain exceptions as per dated April 14, 2020 shall continue. However, exception given to milk and dairy shops to operate till 8pm shall subject to condition that no sale of samosa, pakora, jalebi and such other Iftari items shall be permitted,” it added.

Sindh dismisses speculation about ease in lockdown; hopes of experts revived after announcement Ebola medicine can cure Covid-19

According to the government data, available with Dawn, there will be 52,695 coronavirus cases in the country by May 15 and the number will increase to 158,852 by May 30. Moreover, the data of actual cases is around four per cent less than the estimated data, so if cases are reported with the current pace, there will be around 150,000 cases by May 30.

The data shows that there will be 1,324 deaths by May 15, but since the actual number of deaths is 20pc lower than the projected number, if mortality rate continues with the same pace, around 1,050 people will die by May 15.

According to the data, there are sufficient intensive care beds, ventilators, hospital beds and makeshift hospital beds for the month of May, but there is a deficiency of 377,624 N-95 masks, 4,444 tyvek suits, 205,703 surgical gowns and 1.7 million nitrile gloves [used by medical and laboratory staff] for the same month.

The data for May shows that there will be a shortage of 19,960 disposable gloves, 1.6m latex gloves, 963,638 goggles, 84,327 face shields, 166,633 disposable caps, 178,323 shoe covers, 13,501 gum boots and 5m surgical masks.

When contacted, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Zafar Mirza said the most positive thing was that the number of cases in Pakistan was fewer than other countries.

“Though it is being said that fewer number of tests are conducted daily in Pakistan, in the given circumstances our tests are much more than neighbouring countries considering the population per million,” he said.

In reply to a question, Dr Mirza said the graph/curve of cases in Pakistan would start flattening in June and dropping in July. “We have sufficient stock of ventilators and PPE till first week of June and after that we will have to arrange supplies. However, on Thursday, during a briefing given to the prime minister, we learnt that the local manufacturing of ventilators will start by that time. So in that case there will be no issue of supplies,” he claimed.

Cure for Covid-19

Hopes of health experts have revived after an announcement that anti-viral medicine (AVM) for Ebola can be a possible cure for Covid-19. The video of a briefing, given in the presence of US President Donald Trump and has been widely circulated through social media, shows that during a study, in which a medicine called Remdesivir was used, it was proved that it can expedite the recovery of Covid-19 patients.

Health Services Academy Vice Chancellor Dr Assad Hafeez, while talking to Dawn, said the medicine was an investigational anti-viral drug initially developed for Ebola virus. It interferes with the action of an enzyme known as “RNA-dependent RNA polymerase” and blocks reproduction of virus in human cells. When asked to explain, he said viruses were considered dead material but when they enter into cells of human organs, they use some enzymes and start multiplying themselves.

“If we use a medicine to stop secretion of relevant enzyme, we can stop the virus from multiplying. The announcement regarding study was made as it is a moral responsibility of researches to announce progress in their research. The research has opened new avenues and now I believe that research will start on AVMs. Recovery rate of patients can be increased because of the medicines,” Dr Hafeez said.

Pharmacist Syed Abid Zia, while talking to Dawn, said there was a wide range of AVMs and during research more chemicals could be prepared to expedite the recovery rate of patients.

Microbiologist Prof Dr Javed Usman said it might take some time/months as approval of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would be required before its use for general public. “The size of study was very small as around 1,000 persons were included in the study and 50pc of them were used as ‘Placebo’ which means similar medicines which lacked the chemical were given to 50pc people,” he said.

Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan Chief Executive Officer Dr Asim Rauf, while talking to Dawn, said the FDA had yet to approve the medicine. “Moreover, it is not available across the globe, especially in Pakistan. However, whenever medicines for such pandemics are made, they are provided to developing countries under a programme for poor countries. Once the medicine is declared a cure for Covid-19, we will apply for getting the medicine at lower rates,” he said.

When asked about the price, he said that when cure for Hepatitis C was invented, the price of the medicine was $1,000, but Pakistan got it for only $2.

Published in Dawn, May 1st, 2020


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