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June 22, 2020

Home quarantine by innumerable patients keeping official tally low

National

June 22, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Forceful domestic and global awareness campaign on how to deal with COVID-19 has worked in Pakistan, relieving the health system of a huge brunt.

While the coronavirus tally has topped 176,000 with over 3,500 deaths with the figures rising every day at a rapid pace in Pakistan, the cases would have jumped manifold had an accurate data been available. “As I felt the symptoms of COVID-19, I quickly quarantined myself at home after being tested positive. I did not consult any doctor but took the widely publicized precautions and ordinary medicines like Paracetmol to heal. I came to know about all this through the public awareness campaign,” a patient, Wajahat, told The News from Karachi.

Another patient, Ali, from Islamabad said that as he had diarrhea, body ache and fever, he got himself tested. “It transpired that I was COVID-19 positive. I promptly isolated myself at home and persuaded my family members living with me to get themselves tested for coronavirus. All of them were found negative. We neither visited any hospital nor did we consult any medic.”

Both patients in their early thirties, who recovered after three weeks’ seclusion and have started normal life, said they did not report their sickness to any government agency. Similarly, a married woman from the federal capital, who has two small children, told The News that she was having cough, fever and sore throat for a week that she developed during a gathering at the Eidul Azha. “My husband, who works for a multinational company, took me to a laboratory for coronavirus test.

I was found positive. Then, he got his mother, living with us, tested. The old lady turned out to be negative. Although it was very difficult in the presence of minor children, yet I quarantined myself at home, and after 18 days my test was negative.”

An aged man Khalil in his sixties, who was already down with multiple diseases and was taking high potency medicines to cure them, was tested positive. “I was admitted in a private hospital of Islamabad, which demanded Rs150,000 per day to keep me in its isolation ward. The facility asked me to deposit Rs500,000 as advance for a minimum of three-day quarantine. It was not less than a bombshell for me as I am a man of modest means. I requested a friend to lend at least Rs300,000 and I will arrange the rest. However, as I was involved in the money collection, my pulmonologist, who is treating me for years, advised me to isolate at home and take the medication he prescribed. I followed his advice, and now I have largely recovered.”

All these affected persons were of the view that they were scared of the idea of landing in hospitals after listening to the tales as to what is happening to the patients in such places.

A number of relatives, friends and acquaintances have narrated similar stories. The bottom-line in their recovery is the self-isolation, maximum avoiding of the private and state hospitals and strict adherence to the safe measures and safeguards, which are being repeatedly publicized by the World Health Organization and through other modes.

There are innumerable cases of this nature. All such patients shunned going to private or public hospitals for different reasons with the financial conditions and the poor state of affairs prevailing there being the principal causes but secluded themselves at their homes and recovered after necessary precaution they came to know through the awareness campaign. They are not counted in the government’s growing tally of patients. “The data is largely based on the tests conducted every day or the COVID-19 patients approaching the hospitals. It doesn’t include people, who arrange their own tests and stay at homes instead of approaching a medical facility after being found positive,” said a senior official.

He said that the government feels a bit relaxed with the decisions of the patients, choosing to stay away from public hospitals, which are already overwhelmed, because the health system is not in a position to cope with the situation. “But in cases where the patients develop acute respiratory problem, there is no way out but to admit them in hospitals.”

Amid the fast spiking number of COVID-19 patients, the debate in Pakistan is still going whether to have a total shutdown, smart lockdown, targeted lockdown or partial lockdown. The strict lockdown in several countries of the world was steadily eased after the curve flattened and authorities believed that the scourge was now in control to a large extent. It was the other way round in Pakistan. Here, total lockdown was clamped when the number of patients and deaths was too small. But when the patients’ tally started going up significantly, the strict lockdown was abandoned. After seeing the situation going out of control, targeted or smart lockdown has been enforced in several localities of different big cities.

Prof Saeed Akhtar says there are two ways that one can live with an epidemic or pandemic that starts with a new virus or bacteria and may become endemic. “The virus remains uncontrolled and takes you for a ride and you have no control over the situation. You take the virus in your control and whenever it tries to get out of control, you are in command and you crush it there and then and don’t let that turn it into a second epidemic. The best example can be that you have a very wild horse; tire the hell out of it, train it and tame it and it follows your command. And once in a while, the horse tries to be smart, you know how hard to pull the rein.” He said the first example is Pakistan and the United States and the second example is China, South Korea and New Zealand.