Cautious optimism as active cases fall below 10,000

Updated 27 Aug 2020

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Pakistan’s situation, in terms of active cases, is much better than the United States (2.5 million active cases), India (712,000) and Brazil (709,000). — Reuters/File
Pakistan’s situation, in terms of active cases, is much better than the United States (2.5 million active cases), India (712,000) and Brazil (709,000). — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: While there are fewer than 9,000 active cases of the novel coronavirus across the country and on an average less than a dozen mortalities are being reported for the last 25 days, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Wednes­day warned that there was a possibility of re-emergence of the deadly virus as violation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) was being reported from tourist places.

However Pakistan’s situation, in terms of active cases, is much better than the United States (2.5 million active cases), India (712,000) and Brazil (709,000). Moreover Pakistan has lower number of active cases as compared to Russia, Bangladesh, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Israel and a number of other countries.

The NCOC claimed that there were only 8,987 active Covid-19 cases across the country. Moreover, out of 1,920 ventilators dedicated for Covid-19 patients, only 113 are being used and there is no patient on ventilator in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan and Balochistan.

According to a presentation given during a NCOC meeting on Wednesday, and available with Dawn, as many as 153 persons died due to Covid-19 on June 20 and 9-day average, from June 17 to 25, was 118 casualties per day.

The number of average casualties from June 26 to July 12 (17 days) was 76 per day. On average per day 47 persons died from July 13 to 24 (12 days). As many as 26 deaths per day were reported from July 25 to August 1 (8 days). The data of 25 days (from August 2 to 26) shows that on average 11 people died per day.

Similarly in June on daily average there were over 500 patients on ventilators, over 1000 patients needed high flow of oxygen and over 1500 needed low flow of oxygen. However during the last 10 days of the current month on average there were 130 patients on ventilators, over 300 needed high flow of oxygen and over 200 needed low flow of oxygen.

Moreover, the presentation shows that around 7,000 healthcare workers were infected with the virus but 80pc of them i.e. 5,644 have recovered.

The positivity rate among daily tested samples has also drastically dropped. The document shows that there was over 20 per cent positivity on July 17 but it dropped to only 1.96pc on August 26. On August 25, Quetta had the highest positivity i.e. 20.83pc as 70 samples, out of 336 tests, were found positive. Karachi had the second highest positivity rate i.e. 5.42pc as 2,659 persons were tested and 144 of them were found positive. In Hyderabad positivity rate was 4.27pc as 281 persons were tested and 12 were found positive. In Gujranwala positivity rate was 3.19pc as 345 suspects were tested and 11 were found positive. In Islamabad 2,832 persons were tested of whom 15 were found infected with positivity rate of 0.53pc.

According to another document as many as 6,825 cases were reported on July 14 but only 482 people were tested Covid-19 positive on August 25.

Meanwhile, the NCOC has voiced concern over violation of SOPs at tourist spots and urged the provinces to focus on testing of more suspects.

The NCOC meeting, chaired by federal Minister of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar, was informed that the there were chances or re-emergence of virus due to violation of SOPs at tourist spots.

The NCOC urged the provinces to ensure that people should wear masks and maintain social distancing.

The virus was detected in China in December 2019 and then started spreading in other countries. Pakistan had closed its borders and took a number of steps to stop the transmission due to which first case of the Covid-19 was reported in the country in last week of February. On March 13, first meeting of the National Security Committee, composed of top civil and military leadership, was held to discuss the crisis which was later declared a pandemic by World Health Organisation. Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired the meeting of the NSC and directed the concerned authorities to devise a comprehensive strategy to prevent the spread of the disease.

However lockdown was announced on March 16 and a number of industries including construction industry, educational institutions, restaurants, marriage halls, etc were closed.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was involved to ensure medical equipment and health-related supplies at the earliest due to which the coordination with the provinces was improved. Pakistan also sealed its western border with Afghanistan and Iran. Even Kartarpur shrine was closed for local people.

Though the construction industry was reopened on August 17, the National Coordination Committee (NCC) on Covid-19 lifted restrictions on tourism sector from Aug 8 and on restaurants and transport sector from Aug 10 and gave a timetable for opening some other sectors, including educational institutions and marriage halls.

Since the opening of tourist spots, a huge influx of people is being observed there without following SOPs due to which Gilgit Baltistan has had to close its tourist spots. However since a large number of people have been visiting other tourist spots in the country, including Kumrat Valley, without following SOPs, it is feared that it may lead to emergence of a second wave of virus in Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2020