Omicron in Karachi

Published January 19, 2022

WITH the wedding season in full swing, it is no surprise that the Covid positivity rate in Karachi has been touching 40pc of late What is also of concern is that among those infected by the Omicron variant are at least 500 health workers, including doctors, nurses and paramedics. This strain has infected thousands of people across the country. In fact, the actual figure — including for infected health workers — is probably far higher than the official number, considering that not every Covid case is reported. The only silver lining is that while more transmissible, the Omicron variant has proved less lethal and there are fewer hospitalisations than previously. Nevertheless, SOP adherence continues to be necessary. Given that half of Europe’s population is on the verge of being affected by Omicron, medical experts predict that cases in Pakistan will begin to peak in the second week of February. With a single day’s tally showing that Karachi was responsible for 66pc of the country’s Covid cases, the situation in the city is especially precarious. Several medical staff are reportedly on sick leave at a number of medical facilities which are already under a great deal of pressure.

The Sindh government has made mask-wearing mandatory in public places, while the Pakistan Medical Association has demanded an immediate ban on political rallies and public gatherings. The NCOC’s decision on the closure of schools, offices and business places in light of the rising infections across the country is awaited. Meanwhile, the provincial government should, besides ensuring strict implementation of SOPS, ensure contact-tracing of all health workers to understand whether breaches in hospital procedures or careless socialising is to blame for the high number of infections in their community. Once the government has traced the source of the lateral spread of Omicron, it might be in a better position to take effective steps for the protection of health workers and the patients who come in contact with them, giving the health infrastructure some breathing space even as cases continue to rise.

Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2022

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