As a second wave of the coronavirus takes a grip in Pakistan, a major public hospital in the capital — Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) — is struggling after 181 of its medical professionals tested positive in the last two weeks, it emerged on Wednesday.
All of the infected hospital officials, which include doctors, nurses, paramedics and other medical professionals, are currently in quarantine, the hospital's Joint Executive Director Dr Minhaj told DawnNewsTV.
Dr Minhaj said that more staff would be needed before opening more wards to treat Covid-19 patients, adding that the hospital was facing a shortage of task force due to so many of its professionals testing positive.
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Speaking about whether the hospital's outpatient department (OPD) will be closed down, Dr Minhaj said that a final decision will be taken by the National Command and Operation Centre. Many hospitals had shut down OPDs during the first wave of the novel coronavirus in order to minimise the spread by preventing people from gathering at the hospital together.
Intensive care units across the country are nearing capacity as a second, deadlier wave of the coronavirus builds momentum and officials struggle to counter public indifference to the pandemic.
Several doctors said that hospitals are having to turn away suspected Covid-19 patients, with the potential for a major health care crisis increasing daily.
“The coming two weeks are critical and our situation is going to worsen,” said Qaisar Sajjad, secretary general of the Pakistan Medical Association.
“Around 95 per cent of the beds are occupied. Only a few hospitals still have capacity — but most of the hospitals are full and refusing to take more patients.”
Sajjad said the virus was proving “far more lethal” this time around.
The new outbreak has surprised Pakistan, where for months many have been saying the pandemic was done.
Faisal Sultan, the prime minister's special assistant on health, said the “death ratio” — the number of people with Covid-19 who die from the disease — was rising, and officials warn that more and more people are testing positive.
“The current wave of Covid-19 is more lethal,” Sultan said.
“The pandemic is fast spreading and we should all be concerned."
Despite increasing cases and concerns among officials, Prime Minister Imran Khan has ruled out a sweeping lockdown, saying that the government does not want "people to die due to hunger while protecting them from coronavirus".
Speaking to the media earlier today in Lahore, he said that the country was able to overcome the situation in June, when Pakistan saw its first peak, by "coming together and taking precautions" and urged the public to do the same again.
Compared to neighbours Iran and India, Pakistan dodged the worst of the pandemic's first wave, something health experts have said was due partly to the young population and the fact many Pakistanis travel little around the country.
Additional input by AFP.