PAKISTAN is facing yet another wave of Covid-19 infections, with health experts predicting a surge in hospitalisations by next week. Sadly, pandemic fatigue is writ large everywhere — with no one bothered about wearing masks at restaurants, shopping centres, wedding halls, offices, etc. People are going about their daily lives without following safety precautions, endangering themselves and others. During the past few days, hundreds of cases have been recorded all over the country, and infections are steadily rising. The highest number of cases are being reported from Karachi where the positivity rate touched 22pc. Other cities too have reported relatively high rates of Covid infections — Mardan has a positivity rate of 9pc, Hyderabad 8.5pc, Islamabad 3.45pc and Peshawar 3pc. The fresh wave of infections is being attributed to a super contagious Omicron subvariant, the BA2.12.1, which was first detected in the country in the second week of May. But lethargy has prevailed in the weeks since its detection. According to officials, the number of reported cases and positivity rates of different cities have more than doubled since the previous week, indicating the fast transmission of the virus. Some health officials attribute this rapid transmission to the hot and humid weather prevailing in many areas of the country. Though the NCOC, now part of the National Institute of Health, has instructed people to wear masks while travelling by public transport and on domestic flights and trains, other parallel measures by the federal and provincial governments remain conspicuous by their absence.
It is against this background that a meeting of the NCOC was held on Tuesday where the authorities decided to ramp up testing, ensure contact tracing and undertake aggressive campaigning to promote mask-wearing. It was reported that the Sindh government might soon announce a strategy for curbing the alarming rise in infections. The authorities should implement strict prevention measures at the earliest, because even a moderate rise in hospitalisations in the current economic climate might prove too much for the country’s fragile health infrastructure.
Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2022