Punjab ignores dire warning over asymptomatic patients

Updated Jun 02 2020


Summary sent to Buzdar reporting the possibility of around 670,000 positive cases. — AFP/File
Summary sent to Buzdar reporting the possibility of around 670,000 positive cases. — AFP/File

LAHORE: The Punjab government has yet to follow the recommendations of the health authorities to apply a 30-day complete lockdown two weeks after being presented with a disturbing picture of Lahore resulting from local transmission of coronavirus.

A sample survey was carried out in most of the localities, and based on the percentage of people who tested positive, it was estimated that around 670,000 people in Lahore may have contracted the virus.

Punjab Primary and Secondary Healthcare Secretary retired Capt Mohammad Usman had moved the summary to Chief Minister Usman Buzdar on May 15, reporting the estimated number of 670,000 asymptomatic patients that could not be reported to the health facilities, but became main source of infections and local transmission of the Covid-19.

“No workplace and residential area of any town is free and, as such, entire Lahore exhibits an alarming similar transmission pattern,” reveals the summary sent to the Punjab government for consideration by the chief minister. The summary was moved on the basis of recommendations drafted and prepared by a Technical Working Group.

Summary sent to Buzdar reporting the possibility of around 670,000 positive cases

Constituted by the Punjab government after approval from the Cabinet Committee to Combat Coronavirus Threat, the working group consists of leading epidemiologists, public health specialists, applied economists, statisticians and public policy specialists. Its purpose was to conduct predictive analysis, impact analysis, provide technical input and determine disease prevalence and spread rates.

The summary stated that the most seriously hit age group was 50 years and above.

The working group said a complete lockdown for four weeks was the need of the hour immediately to stop transmission of the virus.

“Any subsequent decision of lifting, relaxing or doing away with any such lockdown be taken after reviewing results of smart sampling conducted with regular intervals till the final tapering down of this deadly virus,” reads the summary.

It had given emphasis on quarantine or isolation of the elderly, mandatory stay at home and minimal interaction with household members.

“Keeping in view the rising number of cases, particularly in district Lahore, it is recommended that a timely plan for surge capacity may be implemented in all healthcare facilities to deal with any unprecedented situation likely to emerge in the coming few days,” the group recommended.

It stated that teams had started surveying — random targeted sampling — to determine the prevalence of the disease in Lahore in those occupational sectors that remained functional during the lockdown as well as smart sampling as advised by the working group through the ‘S Grid Strategy’ to understand its community spread.

“With the results of both sampling exercises pouring in [from various hotspots, including workplaces and residential areas], a worrisome picture of Covid-19 prevalence in the communities is emerging i.e. positivity rate of 5.18 per cent from targeted sampling and 6.01pc for smart sampling,” reads the summary.

The results of these tests show that 6pc of all those who were tested were found positive for the virus with a few towns showing positivity rate as high as 14.7pc.

“Considering this sample as a true representative of Lahore’s population (11.8 million), the actual new cases during this exercise in Lahore are estimated at 670,800,” reads the summary.

The town-wise breakdown shows a value of more than 3pc for all towns, except Wagah Town, and ranges between 2.11pc and 9.33pc, thereby refuting the justification for zoning and smart lockdown.

The primary and secondary healthcare department had endorsed the views, analysis and recommendations of the working group to prevent and control Covid-19.

“It is therefore proposed that the analysis and recommendations of the technical working group along with the views of this or any other department as well, if deemed fit, regarding the lockdown, shutdown, enforcement of social distancing or opening up of particular sectors like transport may be placed before the cabinet,” concludes the health department summary.

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2020