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May 22, 2020

Surge in cases, fatalities as SOPs go unheeded

Top Story

May 22, 2020

Ag Agencies

ISLAMABAD: The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and fatalities in Pakistan rose to 49,391 and 1,051 respectively on Thursday due to the people’s least adherence to the health protocols pleading cough etiquette, respirator hygiene, and social distancing.

Of 49,391 confirmed cases, Sindh reported 19,924 cases, Punjab 17,382, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 7,155, Balochistan 2,968, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) 1,138, Gilgit-Baltistan 579, and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) 133.

Of 1,051 deaths, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 365 deaths, Sindh 336, Punjab 297, Balochistan 38, Gilgit-Baltistan 4, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) 10, and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) 1.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, people seem to have started paying the price for negligence as 20 people died in the past two days, 14 of them on Thursday, taking the death toll to 365 – the highest number of fatalities in any city of the country.

With 365 deaths, KP is leading with the highest human losses from coronavirus in the country. As many as 340 people were diagnosed with Covid-19 that brought the total number of confirmed positive cases to 7155 in KP, again the highest number of positive cases. Of 14 people who died from coronavirus in KP, seven of them belonged to Peshawar alone. Peshawar has suffered more human losses than any other city in the country. Up to 216 people had lost lives as a result of Covid-19 in Peshawar so far. Also, with 92 positive cases reported from Peshawar, the number of total cases reached 2694 in the city, again the highest number of positive cases reported in any city of the country. Bajaur and Karak districts also lost two people each from coronavirus on Thursday. One each patient died of Covid-19 in Charsadda, Abbottabad and Kohat.

Other districts, including Swat reported 31 positive cases, Khyber 28, Charsadda 21, Dir Lower 18, Abbottabad 16, Mardan 11 and Swabi 12. The number of positive cases is rapidly increasing in the province with the government allowing more and more laboratories to conduct investigations of the coronavirus. The latest is the Mardan Medical Complex (MMC) and it’s medical college, Bacha Khan Medical College (BKMC) that has started investigation of the coronavirus. The college had own well-equipped laboratory but lacked the resources to purchase kits required for investigations.

The institution had to spend from meagre resources to purchase a number of expensive equipment and carry out civil work to operate the laboratory as per standards of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The provincial government had committed to provide financial resources to the institution and enable the administration to start investigations but, according to sources in the Health Department in Peshawar and in MMC, the government didn’t provide any financial assistance to the MMC and the BKMC.

Health Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra was happy to travel to Mardan on Wednesday and inaugurate the laboratory but didn’t bother to share the burden of the institution in handling the pandemic. The laboratory was previously called molecular laboratory but it’s now called the Mardan Public Health Lab. It has serious issues of staff deficiencies as presently only six technicians are working there. The staff was recently sent to the National Institute of Health (NIH) to get training related to coronavirus investigations.

The sources in MMC, however, told The News that the government had given them kits for 1400 patients. “They need staff on an emergency basis as we will run the lab in one shift. There is a need for three shifts to cope with growing demands by the patients as we have to cater to the entire Mardan Division. If the government and the NDMA do not help us to remove the deficiencies, the laboratory will collapse,” feared an official of the institution. Only on Thursday, when the laboratory had started functioning, swab of 45 patients in MMC was sent to the laboratory. The laboratory has only a single PCR machine and the staff would need a second machine for backup and then in near future, they will require equipment for plasmapheresis and anti-body investigations in the institution. The institution had already purchased two refrigerators but needs another minus 18 one for the lab. And for that, they would need resources.

Meanwhile, the federal government has decided to resume intercity and intra-city transport with immediate effect with strict instructions and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for transporters to be followed.

In this regard, non-AC buses will charge reduced fare in line with the rates notified by the Punjab government earlier.

While, passengers will be seated in the sequence where one seat would be kept vacant. All public vehicles will observe proper distancing.

In case of two doors vehicle, passenger will get into vehicle from one gate and exit from the next one. The rear door will be used for boarding and the front door foe alighting of passengers wherever available for physical contact between passengers, but in case of single door vehicle, allow passengers to alight first and then boarding of passenger.

The buses, wagons, mini-buses and Suzuki will be disinfected regularly.

Frequent and regular sanitization of terminals will be ensured with physical distancing and bus stands will ensure physical distancing in waiting areas for passengers.

Anybody having symptoms of high-grade fever, flu or cough shall not be allowed to enter bus terminal and ride.

First aid box having medicines like tablet panadol must be available for use of patients developing fever during travelling.

Meanwhile, the entry of tourists in Murree would be banned during Eid-ul-Fitr holidays.

According to the Deputy Commissioner Rawalpindi Capt (R) Anwar ul Haq, all the tourist spots and hotels in Murree would remain closed during Eidul Fitr holidays as part of precautionary measures against COVID-19.

The DC said that the decision has been taken to control spread of coronavirus and in the best interest of people so they could be saved from the virus. He urged the citizens to avoid visiting tourists spots particularly Murree during the Eid holidays.

Meanwhile, out of the three biggest South Asian countries, Pakistan has the highest COVID-19 cases and deaths per million people, as per world statistics.

In terms of number of confirmed cases in comparison to its population, Pakistan ranks number one, followed by Bangladesh and India, according to Our World in Data, a collaborative effort between researchers at the University of Oxford and the non-profit Global Change Data Lab.

As per the chart, on May 20 Pakistan had 207 cases per million in the country. Bangladesh had 152 and India has 77 positive tests per million.

In terms of deaths per million, again Pakistan leads with 0.21 deaths per million on May 20, followed closely by Bangladesh 0.13 and India 0.10.

However, the dashboard notes that the number of confirmed cases is lower than the number of total cases. The main reason for this is limited testing in some countries.