As Covid tests in Punjab decline 30pc, senior doctors claim virus peaked in June

Updated 08 Jul 2020

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A gradual decline in tests continued throughout the first week of July as Punjab conducted 7,116 tests on July 6 when the confirmed cases were 82,669. — AFP/File
A gradual decline in tests continued throughout the first week of July as Punjab conducted 7,116 tests on July 6 when the confirmed cases were 82,669. — AFP/File

LAHORE: The number of tests conducted for coronavirus has witnessed a 30 per cent decline in Punjab during the supposed peak of the virus, triggering a controversy regarding its reasons and public reservations that the government has deliberately reduced the tests.

Mayo Hospital Chief Executive Prof Dr Asad Aslam, who is leading the Covid-19 campaign in Punjab, claimed that June 12 to 13 was the peak of the virus in the province, which has now started its decline.

“We were receiving 100 critical and serious patients daily on average in Mayo Hospital in the mid of June, which has now declined to around five,” he added, explaining that critical patients were those who needed to be put on ventilators, while serious ones were treated in high dependency units to maintain their oxygen levels.

He said the total number of critical patients of the virus on June 13 was 1,106 in Lahore’s 31 government and private hospitals, while this number reduced to 400 on July 7, indicating that the peak of the virus was over. He said the asymptomatic or patients with mild symptoms were preferring to stay home.

13 more die of coronavirus in Punjab, 646 test positive

The public and private sector labs in Punjab were conducting an average of 10,000 tests daily in the mid of June when the number of the confirmed cases was around 55,000 and deaths were 1,081. On June 20, the official figures were 10,188 tests conducted in Punjab that day, while the number of confirmed cases was 65,739 across the province.

From that day onwards, while the number of deaths and confirmed cases of the virus continued to increase in Punjab, the number of tests witnessed a decline. On June 30, the official figures reported that 8,284 tests were conducted across the province when the number of confirmed cases had reached 76,262 and the death toll 1,762.

A gradual decline in tests continued throughout the first week of July as Punjab conducted 7,116 tests on July 6 when the confirmed cases were 82,669.

Citizens have alleged that the Punjab government was deliberately reducing testing to avoid criticism due to a rise in the spread of the virus.

Pakistan Medical Association Lahore chapter Secretary General Dr Shahid Malik partially acknowledged that the tests were not being performed as much as the disease burden.

“I believe that the peak season of virus transmission has come to an end and it is on the decline in Punjab,” he said, adding that the mutation of the virus has now made it less harmful, which is a good development.

“But the public must know that the risk will be there during Eidul Azha and they should follow the guidelines of wearing masks, social distancing and maintaining hygiene to break the transmission line of Covid-19,” Dr Malik said.

The health authorities rejected the allegations of a wilful decline in testing in Punjab, stating that there were solid reasons for that.

A spokesperson for the primary and secondary healthcare department said that one of the reasons was the policy guidelines from the federal government to the provinces to stop testing asymptomatic travellers coming from abroad.

“As per these policy guidelines, testing of only symptomatic passengers on flights is being carried out, which has reduced daily sample from 3,000 to 4,000 per day since June 20,” he said.

Similarly, he said, the Corona Experts Advisory Group had abolished the double-negative reports of patients under treatment at hospitals that also caused a decline in the number of daily tests across the province.

He said the admission rates in public and private hospitals have reduced consistently over the last two weeks and mostly critical or symptomatic patients were coming to the health facilities. The bed occupancy in intensive care units of hospitals has also been consistently low daily.

A similar decline in daily tests was observed in private labs too, he added.

“Most importantly, positivity ratio since June 1 has reduced from 23 per cent to 10pc as of July 6, which is also a strong indication that the peak of the disease transmission is now coming to an end,” the health department spokesperson claimed.

NEW CASES: Meanwhile, 13 more people died of Covid across the province during the last 24 hours, taking the death toll to 1,884 in Punjab.

The number of confirmed cases of the virus reached 81,963 on Tuesday after 646 more tested positive in the province during the same period.

Of the new cases, 334 were reported from Lahore, 40 from Rawalpindi, 37 from Faisalabad and 32 from Multan, according to the official figures released on Tuesday.

The total number of deaths from the virus in Lahore is 720, in Rawalpindi 322, in Faisalabad 192 and in Multan 127. The provincial capital has also reported the highest number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 with 42,656.

A spokesperson for the health department said 7,325 tests were conducted during the last 24 hours in Punjab.

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2020