At least 191 more healthcare providers and medical workers have tested positive for the coronavirus within a week, according to data shared by the National Emergency Operation Centre on Thursday.
An earlier report shared by the centre on April 23 had revealed that at least 253 healthcare workers in the country had been infected by the coronavirus. That number has now jumped by 191, or 75 per cent, to 444.
The latest report, which has data up until April 29, shows 216 doctors, 67 nurses and 161 healthcare staff have tested positive across the country up until now. Of these, 204 are in isolation at homes, 138 are admitted to hospitals while 94 have recovered from the virus.
Eight healthcare workers have died from the coronavirus so far. The first known Covid-19 fatality among the local medical community occurred in Gilgit Baltistan when a young doctor, Usama Riaz, succumbed to the disease in March.
Early last month, Dr Abdul Qadir Soomro from Sindh became the province's first Covid-19 fatality from the medical community.
Last week, a senior doctor at Peshawar's Hayatabad Medical Complex passed away from Covid-19. He had been working in the hospital's coronavirus ward.
According to the report, three healthcare workers have died from the virus in Sindh, two in Gilgit Baltistan and one each in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Islamabad.
The report adds that out of 444 infected with the virus, 138 were working in critical care while 306 were working in other wards of the hospitals. Contacts of the health professionals have been traced and tested, according to the report and some 186 contacts have tested positive while test results of another 289 are awaited.
The highest number of those infected by the virus in the medical community is from KP at 103, while Punjab is close behind at 102. The number of health workers infected in Sindh is 86 although doctors in the province maintain the number is closer to 162.
The number of infected healthcare workers in Balochistan is 90, 41 in Islamabad, 18 in GB and four in Azad Jammu and Kashmir respectively.
Govt to launch programme for protection of medical workers
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza on Thursday said that the government was "worried about medical workers" and would soon launch a programme for protection of medical staff working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.
The SAPM said that the country was now producing its own personal protective equipment (PPE) but it had been observed that PPE was "not being used rationally" in some places. "We will train medics on the proper use of PPE."
He added that the government would also provide psychological support to those working on the front lines.
Doctors have been at odds with the government over lockdown measures, calling for the enforcement of a complete lockdown amid rising number of coronavirus cases. Last week, a group of female doctors in Karachi warned people against coming out unnecessarily from their homes during the coronavirus pandemic, saying that the pressure on doctors would "decrease" if people listened and stayed home.
"We need to save doctors' lives. If doctors start dying, who will save the patients?" a doctor at the press conference had questioned.
Earlier, the Provincial Doctors Association in KP had strongly recommended complete lockdown following press conferences by the Pakistan Medical Association in Lahore and by senior doctors in Karachi who urged the government not to relax lockdown restrictions.