LAHORE: Warning against a potential second wave of Covid-19 if people abandoned precautions during Eidul Azha and Muharram, Primary and Secondary Healthcare Secretary Muhammad Usman on Tuesday beseeched people “to be very very careful, otherwise things can quickly spin out of hand”.
Addressing a press conference a day after the National Command Operation Centre set the template for animal markets and sale/purchase of animals during the pandemic, the secretary dilated upon the details about Punjab: “The situation is now relatively under control, but any mistake can reverse it quickly, as happened following Eidul Fitr.”
Flanked by Dr Mahmood Shaukat, chairman of the Corona Expert Advisory Group, who later took over the press conference as the secretary left, and members of the Technical Working Group, Mr Usman pleaded: “Covid positivity has dropped to six per cent against 31pc in June. The number of critical patients has declined and recovery rate has improved to 60pc. The number of tests dropped not because of capacity issues, but due to fewer requirements. All these signs show that the situation is under control.”
Health secy claims virus positivity rate down but can get out of hand
“However, fears are growing that these signs could denigrate if people throw caution to the wind during Eidul Azha and Muharram, as happened after Eidul Fitr when the numbers skyrocketed within days. Apart from these two religious events, hospital outpatient departments are being reopened, which could cause a rush to these facilities. This is why the government is trying to lay extra stress on coronavirus protocols, which essentially remain the same – masks, social distancing, frequent washing of hands and avoiding travel,” he told the media.
Talking about the apparently dwindling number of tests, Dr Shaukat said that it was because there was no need for utilising the entire testing capacity of 12,000. “Since the core number of patients has gone down, so has contact tracing and their testing. In the beginning, we were testing 10 contacts of each positive patient. Both numbers have gone down. Secondly, discharge protocol has changed; it used to be two consecutive negative tests, which is down to one. The asymptomatic patients can end the isolation in 10 days and symptomatic ones in three days if symptoms don’t deteriorate. Third, anti-bodies tests have increased manifold, which gives the government a fairly good idea about the prevalence of the virus. So, instead of more expensive PCR, which becomes even more expensive when taken in the background of its yield (only 60pc), reliance on anti-bodies has increased to get a full picture of the disease. All these factors have decreased the requirement for tests instead of the government shirking its responsibility as being propagated by some quarters,” he explained.
However, he pointed out a hitherto neglected or less noted area: post-Covid-19 assessment of patients. There have been reports that mental stress is taking a heavy toll on some of the patients. “They used to be kept in complete isolation for 10 days, which took a heavy toll. This stress is then compounded by subsequent economic and financial pressures. Both these situations are triggering neurological troubles among patients. These are in addition to heart, lungs and diabetic issues among most of the patients.”
To a question about the assessment of patients who were administered Actemra injections, the secretary said that about 300 patients were given the injection in private sector and around 260 in public sector. The data is collected and is under scrutiny now. The final analysis would take another 10 days and results shared with people, he added.
Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2020