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Thursday May 23, 2024

Easing lockdown will open the floodgates to coronavirus cases, warn medical associations

By M. Waqar Bhatti
May 10, 2020

Strongly opposing federal and provincial governments’ decision to ease the lockdown, senior health experts and medical associations on Saturday warned that the number of COVID-19 cases was already on the rise and if restrictions were further lifted, the outbreak could get out of control in Pakistan where the healthcare system was incapable of managing and treating even a few hundred patients.

There are only 63 beds reserved for COVID-19 patients at five public-sector hospitals in Karachi while the total number of ventilators at all the coronavirus-treating health facilities in the city are not more than 100, the experts said and added that instead of easing the restrictions on the movement of people and gatherings, the federal and provincial governments should focus on the dissemination of accurate information and public awareness to minimise the spread of COVID-19.

The medical experts spoke at a press conference jointly addressed by the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA) and other medical associations at the PMA House Karachi.

PMA President Dr Ikram Tunio said despite the so-called lockdown, not only COVID-19 cases were on the rise but dozens of people were dying on a daily basis. “But if these so-called restrictions are lifted, this will spread like a fire in the country, especially in Karachi, and our health system would be unable to bear the burden,” he warned.

He said the healthcare situation in Pakistan was worsening with each passing day and a large number of healthcare providers, especially doctors, were getting infected with COVID-19. “We demand that the healthcare providers who are dying due to COVID-19 be declared as martyrs and appropriate compensation be paid to their families”, he stated.

Warning that opening businesses and allowing congregations would open the ‘floodgate of coronavirus’ in the country, Dr Tunio said the doctors were not satisfied with the government’s measures to deal with the pandemic. He added that if the situation continued, there would be no space left in the hospitals and people would die at homes and in the streets.

Pulmonologist and former PIMA President Prof Sohail Akhtar said COVID-19 was not just a disease of the respiratory system as the virus was resulting in narrowing down and closure of blood arteries, the common manifestations of which were stroke, heart attacks and collapsed lungs that had been causing sudden deaths in the country.

“For the last eight weeks, we have been fearing and predicting that COVID-19 cases will increase and [calling for] steps to be taken to slow down its spread as much as possible to reduce load on our health system. We feel that the cases are on the rise and there would be an exponential increase in the coronavirus cases in the coming days,” Prof Akhtar maintained.

Urging the people to pay heed to the instructions and advices of the health professionals, he said people should consider the pandemic seriously and take the required precautionary measures while the government should take steps taken by many other countries of the world to slow down its spread in the communities.

Other health professionals including Dr Qaiser Sajjad, Dr Saad Khalid Niaz, Dr Atif Hafeez and others also spoke at the news conference and suggested that the lockdown should be continued for a couple of months more to slow down the pace of the COVID-19 spread in the country, saying the World Health Organisation (WHO) was extremely worried about the COVID-19 situation in the countries like Pakistan.

They said the federal and provincial governments were passing the buck to the people and asking them to practise social distancing but keeping in view the educational status and lack of awareness among the people, a great majority would not follow the standard operating procedures.

The health experts also criticised the existing healthcare system and said despite having two to three months, the system was not improved and expanded to deal with the growing number of COVID-19 patients.

Asking the government to immediately establish a dashboard and central helpline to help COVID-19 patients, they said the government should add more beds for them, provide personal protective equipment to the healthcare providers and ensure screening of the healthcare workers so that they could remain active and available for the treatment of the patients.