ISLAMABAD: While a new strain of coronavirus has become a challenge across the globe, Pakistan reported the highest number of deaths during the second wave of Covid-19, and the second highest since the beginning of the pandemic, as 111 people died in the country on Thursday.
The Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) said that it is vigilant about the emergence of the new variant of SARS CoV-2 in Pakistan, which had been detected in the United Kingdom.
However, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on health Dr Faisal Sultan admitted that the situation in the health sector of Pakistan was depicting a gloomy picture. He said the situation was the ‘worst’ when compared to other South-Asian countries.
According to the data of the National Command and Operation Centre, as many as 111 deaths and 2,256 new cases were registered in a single day. Earlier 124 people had died of Covid-19 on June 15. During the second wave 105 people had died on Dec 15.
Ministry says it’s vigilant about emergence of new variant
While national positivity ratio was 6.07 per cent, highest positivity ratio was observed in Karachi at 12.45pc, followed by Peshawar 10.96pc and Abbottabad 7.81pc. Moreover 2,361 Covid-19 patients were in a critical condition in different parts of Pakistan.
According to a statement of NHS Ministry, the situation in Pakistan was being closely monitored and all passengers arriving from the UK were being evaluated.
“As of Thursday, the new variant of coronavirus has not been detected in Pakistan,” it said, adding the National Institute of Health (NIH) was sensitive to and on alert regarding this new strain for its timely detection and handling.
An official of ministry said that the new variant of coronavirus detected in the UK was 70pc more transmissible.
Asked how the new variant of the virus could be traced, he said the NIH routinely did genetic sequencing for all polio virus detections.
“The same Polio programme staff is supporting NIH in Covid-19 diagnostics. As per reports genetic variation seems to have enhanced virus transmissibility however, it’s not more pathogenic than the previous versions,” he said.
The National Coordinator of the Emergency Operation Centre for Polio, Dr Rana Safdar, told Dawn that like other ribonucleic acid (RNA)-based viruses, coronavirus was prone to regular genetic drifts (minor changes) and shifts (major changes).
“Different variants of it are thus being regularly detected in different geographies. As a general rule, the ability to cause disease gradually decreases with time, however, exceptions may happen as well. Based on information available till date, the newly detected type in UK appears to be 70pc more transmissible. However, there is no evidence so far if the mutation has affected its pathogenicity. We shall know more about it during next few weeks as to how does it impact the load on health systems,” he said.
Meanwhile, during a briefing arranged by the World Health Organisation, SAPM Dr Sultan said that universal health coverage was an investment in human capital and a foundational driver of inclusive and sustainable economic growth and development of Pakistan.
“Unfortunately, the situation in health sector of Pakistan is depicting a gloomy picture. The situation was ‘bad’ but comparatively better in the South-Asian countries at the start of Millennium Development Agenda. At the start of Sustainable Development Agenda, there is some improvement in health-related indicators, however, the status is now among the ‘worst’ compared to other South-Asian countries,” he said.
“For the present government, it was critical to review the situation before designing and implementing a new reform agenda in the health sector to ensure progress on Universal Health Coverage. During the review, one of the main reasons for poor performance in the health sector was drastic reduction in allocation to the public health sector to an unacceptable very low level of 0.23 percent of GDP in FY 2010-11. Since then, the share for government health expenditure as percentage of GDP has gradually increased to around 1pc of GDP, but still significantly low against the target of 3pc of GDP. The ministry of NHS with the support of the provincial departments of health has achieved an important milestone of developing Universal Health Coverage - Benefit Package of Pakistan/ Essential Package of Health Services. The development of this package and subsequent implementation will become the cornerstone of health reforms across Pakistan,” he said.
Published in Dawn, December 25th, 2020