ISLAMABAD: As vaccination against Covid-19 has surpassed the figure of 90pc in the federal capital, the city has seen a reduction in mortality rate.

According to data, only 133 cases were reported in the city during the last one week, with the positivity ratio remaining at 1pc.

On the other hand, Rawalpindi reported five positive cases on Sunday.

In another development, the Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) launched a report on Sunday that covered Pakistan’s Covid-19 response during January-February 2022.

Fafen’s findings stress the need for continued vigilance

During the last few weeks, the fifth wave of the pandemic has been losing severity in the country, which can be gauged from the fact that the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has decided to lift all restrictions for fully-vaccinated people.

Talking to Dawn, District Health Officer Islamabad Dr Zaeem Zia said though the city had surpassed the figure of 90pc, in terms of complete vaccination, it should be considered around 95pc as a number of residents of the city were outside the country.

“The reduced mortality rate shows credibility of vaccination in the city. Despite the fact that Islamabad has a large number of medical tourism, the mortality rate is almost zero,” he added.

While sharing the weekly data, Dr Zia said in the last week of January, the city observed the highest positivity rate of 16.45pc which then gradually started to decline, reaching 1pc during the last week.

The data showed that on Sunday, the capital reported 21 Covid-19 patients and the infection rate of 1.32pc.

Meanwhile,five people tested positive in Rawalpindi district and four recovered during the last 24 hours.

According to the health authority’s data, the positivity ratio in the district was 0.56pc. A total of 892 samples were collected out of which results of 887 people came back negative.

There are 76 active patients in Rawalpindi district as of March 20, with three patients admitted to hospitals and 73 home isolated.

Two patients surfaced from the cantonment areas and one patient each from Kallar Syedan, Taxila and Islamabad. There is no patient on ventilator, however one is on oxygen and the other two are stable.

On the other hand, a report of the Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) has observed varying healthcare capacities across regions and districts during the fifth wave of Covid-19 that remained a major challenge and key concern.

With the onset of Omicron variant in December last year, confirmed cases jumped to 133,839 in January – the highest since the start of the pandemic – while the number of recoveries was recorded at 38,366.

Compared to January, cases started to decline in February. The health authorities recorded 79,855 confirmed cases and 147,548 recoveries in the month.

Fafen’s findings of the third pandemic governance monitoring report, released on Sunday, reinforced the need for consistent and continued vigilance and the necessity of both medium and long-term structural and policy changes built on the lessons learnt.

Compared to the earlier waves, the report highlighted a broad two-pronged pandemic response to the fifth surge of Covid-19 that helped Pakistan withstand and manage the challenges relatively well.

The first aspect of the response comprised varying levels of restrictions and targeted measures in areas with high positivity ratio.

The second wave comprised a parallel push for increased vaccination and broadening the eligible population section to include the 12-16 age group. A remarkable increase of 30 million to the fully vaccinated column during the first two months of the ongoing year is a testament to the seriousness accorded to the effort, the report said.

Despite a slow start, Pakistan’s vaccination drive gained significant momentum, reaching an average of one million doses per day by the end of last year.

Pakistan had administered 216.9 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine by the first week of March 2022. Approximately 100 million people were fully vaccinated (65pc of the vaccine eligible population and 44pc of the total estimated population), whereas around 127.5 million are ‘partially vaccinated’ as per the information provided by the NCOC website and their official twitter account.

As assessed in the report, had the Omicron variant been as severe as the earlier variants, it would have seriously tested the healthcare system — a factor that shall not be lost on policymakers responsible for responding to any new variant of Covid-19 or a completely new pandemic.

For instance, the availability of beds, ventilators and doctors within the observed districts showed that the healthcare system in Pakistan was still under-equipped — more so in some areas than others.

If the situation had necessitated the hospitalisation of those infected, the number of patients per ventilator and patients per bed would have resulted in severe consequences for some of the districts.

For instance, Karak district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would have 21,132 and 1,023 patients per ventilator and bed respectively, followed by Mardan with 669 patients per ventilator and 324 patients per bed, and Rawalpindi with 204 patients per ventilator and four patients per bed.

The private sector has played a significant role in providing services and facilities that have contributed to the overall pandemic governance and response. However, there remains the need for more effective regulation, especially regarding the pricing of critical services.

However, what remains a key concern for the government is the issue of price regulation.

Attendants of patients interviewed at various health facilities highlighted the significant variance in test pricing. The respondents claimed to have paid prices ranging between Rs1,000 and Rs15,000 or more. — Additional reporting by Aamir Yasin

Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2022

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