Health crisis looms large over Karachi as Delta variant spreads

Published July 20, 2021
According to the health department data, a total of 44,777 tests were conducted in Karachi over the past seven days. Of them, 7,580 came positive. — Reuters/File
According to the health department data, a total of 44,777 tests were conducted in Karachi over the past seven days. Of them, 7,580 came positive. — Reuters/File

KARACHI: A health crisis driven by the Delta variant — the most dangerous and transmissible form of the coronavirus to date — has emerged in the city ahead of Eidul Azha with sudden increase in Covid-19 positive cases over the past few days.

Sources told Dawn the patients’ growing number had burdened major tertiary care hospitals where Covid-19 units were almost full to their capacity. A few hospitals were simply refusing to admit patients on grounds that they were out of space.

They also feared that this crisis might deepen given the variant’s increased transmissibility amid rampant violations of standard operating procedures (SOPs) by the people at public places, particularly cattle markets, these days.

Closer contacts on Eid day, they feared, might push matters in coming days beyond the government’s control.

The sources said the health facilities where Covid-19 beds were now largely occupied included the Sindh Institute of Infectious Diseases — a key government facility providing quality free-of-cost treatment to coronavirus patients — Ojha campus of Dow University of Health Sciences, Qatar General Hospital, Civil Hospital Karachi, Lyari General Hospital, Indus Hospital and the 140-bed facility set up at Expo Centre.

Covid-19 units at many hospitals have been almost full to capacity

“The situation is critical as our health infrastructure is fragile. But, we still have double the existing capacity to take in more patients,” a health department official told Dawn on the condition of anonymity, fearing a further rise in positive cases after Eid.

7,580 test positive in a week

According to the health department data, a total of 44,777 tests were conducted in Karachi over the past seven days. Of them, 7,580 came positive.

The weekly average positivity ratio was 17 per cent. Seventeen patients died in Sindh over the last 24 hours and 30pc of them had comorbidities.

Meanwhile, researchers at Karachi University (KU) have detected Delta variant in 93 samples randomly selected from 100 samples in two days. The samples sent by the health department were collected from patients residing in different areas of the city.

“This is statistically significant [as it suggests a pattern across the board]. If we had tested 10 to 15 samples, one might think that [there was] variability in more tests. The Delta variant is highly contagious and has spread across the city,” said Associate Professor Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed Khan at the Jamil-ur-Rahman Centre for Genomics Research at KU.

He regretted public behaviour and said people were not taking the Delta variant seriously.

“They are thinking that the fourth coronavirus wave won’t affect them as has happened during the past Covid-19 episodes. But, unfortunately, this might not be the case this time,” he said, calling for strict enforcement of SOPs.

First identified in India in March, Delta variant has spread to more than 90 countries and is also the most dominant variant in India, the United Kingdom, Russia, Israel, Singapore and more than a dozen other countries.

The variant, scientists say, has features that allow it to evade some of the body’s immune system defences. Plus, it has the highest transmissibility of anything seen so far, a dangerous combination.

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2021

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