Covid by numbers

 
July 03, 2020

With the end of June, Pakistan completed its fourth month with the Covid-19 pandemic which had claimed its first two deaths in the country in the last week of February. Looking back at the four...

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With the end of June, Pakistan completed its fourth month with the Covid-19 pandemic which had claimed its first two deaths in the country in the last week of February. Looking back at the four torturous months, though the number of deaths is not as staggering as it has been in some other countries, this is no time to forget about the disease. The pandemic is still raging across Pakistan and the death toll will be approaching the 5, 000 mark pretty soon. The number of newly infected people has been kept in check not by following precautionary measures, but by not conducting as many screening tests as we should have done. The WHO recommends that around 50,000 tests should be carried out per day. Pakistan’s figures have been, to say the least, baffling. The WHO and other health bodies also say a definite formula should be followed for testing by each country. This is based on the number of cases that emerge each day, coupled with the calculation that each patient who tests positive would have been in contact with around 25 persons during the period of infection.

What also seems to be happening is that many people die due to their underlying conditions that are triggered by the coronavirus. In many other countries, Covid-19 is mentioned as the cause of death but in most developing countries there appears to be a tendency not to mention Covid-19 as the cause of death. This has resulted in a reduced number of deaths attributed to the pandemic. As Eidul Azha is approaching and cattle markets are being set up across the country, it is imperative that certain SOPs are developed and enforced. In the run-up to Eid, people are likely to throng shopping centres once again. A meek appeal to people to follow the SOPs has not worked in the past and it will not work again. There are two possible solutions to this challenge. One is another lockdown so that shopping centres and cattle markets are not allowed to open and operate. A second possible solution is limiting the number of customers allowed to enter a market at a time. This will result in less contact among the people with a reduced chance of increasing infections. Finally, more tests are needed in all parts of Pakistan.

A complacent approach now may result in a renewed propagation of infections that could take a heavy toll on the people in the months to come. In this situation, the truth is we simply have no way of telling how many Covid-19 patients exist in the country, whether the rate of infection is dropping or rising and how we should handle the situation. Without figures that are accurate and undisputed, the problem for doctors and hospitals will continue to grow and the reliability of Pakistan’s data around the world will continue to tumble.



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