Spike in Covid cases may turn into sixth wave, warn medical experts

Published June 22, 2022
The healthcare staff at the coronavirus vaccination centre set up in Khaliqdina Hall looks completely free on Tuesday as the immunisation campaign against the infectious disease has been affected by the general public apathy towards Covid-19.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
The healthcare staff at the coronavirus vaccination centre set up in Khaliqdina Hall looks completely free on Tuesday as the immunisation campaign against the infectious disease has been affected by the general public apathy towards Covid-19.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: While the majority of the people currently infected with new Covid-19 variants are experiencing a mild disease and recovering at home, there is a dire need that people resume wearing face masks and maintain social distancing at public places to prevent the fast transmission of the new variants, warned health experts on Tuesday.

According to health department officials, Karachi is the most affected part of the province with 340 positive cases, raising the positivity rate to 10.69 per cent in seven days.

In the same period, 1,841 tests were conducted in Hyderabad out of which two cases came positive.

A total of 9,892 tests were conducted in the rest of Sindh out of which 34 came positive.

Currently, a total of 1,813 patients are in home isolation while 16 have been admitted to hospitals.

Ask people to follow safety guidelines; 340 test positive in a week in Karachi

Sixth wave feared

Speaking to Dawn, Dr Saeed Khan, a professor of molecular pathology heading the Sindh Public Health Lab at the Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS), said a new variant — BA.5 — fast spreading in other countries had been reported in Pakistan, including Karachi, and now it was being locally transmitted.

“While other [old] sub-variants of Omicron are also being reported in Karachi, this one is more contagious since it’s a new one and has been cause of concern in other parts of the world,” he said, adding that unvaccinated, the elderly and people with compromised immunity were particularly vulnerable.

“If didn’t pay heed to medical advice and start implementing the Covid-related preventive measures seriously, the spike in cases might turn into the sixth wave of coronavirus,” he said.

According to Dr Khan, there are multiple reasons behind the fast spread of the variants. “They are genetically different, which help them transmit fast. Other reasons include waning of vaccine immunity after six months, reluctance on part of the general public to get a booster shot and absence of Covid-19 preventive measures at public places.”

Additional booster dose

He emphasised the need for a booster dose and an additional booster dose for those who had already received a booster shot.

“The Covid-19 vaccines only help prevent serious disease and not the infection itself which is why it’s important to get a booster shot, which is safe,” he said.

Sharing data of the Sindh Infectious Disease Hospital, Dr Abdul Wahid Rajput, said the number of hospital admission had risen from one to six patients in three days.

“People report at hospitals only when the disease turns serious. Hence, I believe that the number of unreported cases must be much higher than the reported cases and most patients are staying at home with mild signs and symptoms,” he said, adding that all patients at the hospital had co-morbidities and were stable.

Dr Yahya Tunio, deputy executive director at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, said one of the suspected Covid-19 patients died this week.

“He tested negative for Covid-19 but had clinical signs similar to that of the disease. Now, we have two patients who are being looked after in a 10-bedded unit dedicated to the infection,” he said.

He was of the opinion that since the majority of the people had been vaccinated in the country, the disease didn’t pose a serious threat. “It’s more like seasonal flu now. But, we need to be careful as the vulnerable population is at risk.”

A spokesman of the Indus Hospital said that the facility currently had no Covid-19 patient.

When contacted, a health department official stated that four of the samples tested for Covid variants in Sindh were found to be BA.4 and BA.5. The variants were first detected in South Africa in January and February this year.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Medical Association has expressed its concern over the rise in Covid- 19 cases in the country particularly in Karachi, Islamabad and some other cities.

“This surge in Covid-19 cases is due to negligence as the majority of people are no longer wearing face masks or maintaining social distancing and hand hygiene. Also, a limited number of the population has received their booster doses. The effectiveness of the vaccine is decreasing due to time lapse and the only way left for prevention is to get a booster dose,” a statement of the association said.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2022

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