Omicron cases surge in Punjab despite high vaccination rate

Published January 31, 2022
People wait to get a shot of the coronavirus vaccine at a centre in Lahore. — APP/File
People wait to get a shot of the coronavirus vaccine at a centre in Lahore. — APP/File

LAHORE: Omicron, the new variant of Covid-19, is gradually raising its ugly head in Punjab as the related deaths and positivity rate have increased to an alarming level in the province.

“It is alarming in the sense that Punjab is reporting over 2,200 new positive cases daily on average at a time when 61 percent of the targeted population has been vaccinated”, a senior official of the health department told Dawn on Sunday.

He says such a large number of cases had been reported during the peaks of the first and second waves of Covid-19 in the province, when vaccination was in initial phase. The number, he says, showed that either the vaccination is not creating impact or the health teams are making fake entries largely.

Giving a comparison of the official figures in this respect, he says that on March 15, 2021 the province had reported 1,600 new positive cases that were last reported in June 2020.

Experts apprehend fake inoculation data entries

In Lahore, the Punjab government vaccinated nearly 51 percent of the target population for Covid, but the city is still reporting half of the total positive cases surfacing across the province, the official laments.

He stresses the issue must be thoroughly investigated to check ‘fake entries’, quality of vaccines and other flaws in the system.

He said the Punjab government provided 300,000 vials of single-dose vaccines to the provincial capital authorities on the request of the deputy commissioner (DC) to increase vaccination coverage in the city. “Unfortunately, the vaccine is yet to be administered due to the cumbersome procedure as the bureaucracy in health department seems least bothered about the sensitivity of the matter”, the official says.

To a question, he says, the deputy secretaries (DSs) in the health department have been assigned various towns of the city for administering the newly-arrived vaccine to the residents there.

The DSs passed on the task of door-to-door vaccination to the respective deputy district health officers (DDHOs), who complain that most of the residents were reluctant to get vaccinated at home, doubting the vaccine quality or fearing any adverse medical reaction etc.

The official says this reluctance may increase chances of making fake entries by the staff concerned, besides slowing down the vaccination process in Lahore.

While sharing Sunday’s official figures, he says the infectivity rate of the virus has increased to 19.3 in Lahore, the highest so far during the fifth wave of Covid (new Omicron variant).

Similarly, Punjab’s positivity rate has also increased to 9pc, while 12 critical Covid patients died from related complications during the last 24 hours across the province.

Rawalpindi was the second city after Lahore where the positivity rate was 16.3, followed by Baha-walpur’s 12.5 and Faisalabad’s 12.4.

Meanwhile, 2,212 more people tested positive for the virus during the last 24 hours in Punjab.

Experts say presently 95pc of the total Covid cases were of Omicron, while most of the remaining five percent were of delta variant.

They say the current wave shows an upward trend in the new cases, positivity rate of the infection and deaths as the burden of the disease was growing on the government hospitals of the province. Particularly, the experts say, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Faisalabad were reporting most of the new cases and deaths during the ongoing wave of Omicron.

“We are witnessing a surge in the number of patients with shortness of breath (dyspnea) or other breathing issues and a majority of them were elderly”, a senior doctor at the Mayo Hospital Lahore says.

He says though Omicron was not that fatal, the carelessness while handling elderly people during home isolation was causing complications and increasing burden on the high dependency and intensive care units of the state-run hospitals.

On the other hand, the official data showed out of the total 2,212 new positive case, 1,221 were reported in Lahore and 268 in Rawalpindi. Similarly, Faisalabad reported 126, Bahawalpur 101, Rahim Yar Khan, 61, Gujranwala 46 and Sialkot 42 new positive cases of the virus. Other cases were reported from smaller districts.

A sudden surge in the positivity rate in Bahawalpur has particularly alarmed the health authorities, who believe the recent massive tourism activities there may be one of the reasons.

Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2022

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