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Balochistan has far larger Covid-19 prevalence than officially cited: experts

August 04, 2020

QUETTA: As the world is grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic since December last, medical experts say Balochistan — the largest province in terms of land area of more than 12.2 million people —has likely many more cases in the interior and remote areas of the province than the numbers currently being reported.

The number of deaths and infected people caused by Covid-19 in the province is confusing as the official death toll undercounts the total number of pandemic fatalities in the province.

The statistics from four hospitals of Quetta shows that 136 people breathed their last since Feb 2020 due to the coronavirus. This has been taken from four hospitals, including Shaikh Zaid Hospital, BMC Hospital, Civil Hospital and Fatima Jinnah Chest Hospital.

The corona cell at Quetta also receives reports on a daily basis from the district administrations of the remaining 32 districts of the province where the official death figures are stagnant at 90 since July 7, 2020.

The independent sources, however, asserted that the number of causalities caused by the pandemic runs into much more in the province, adding that it is official tendency to downplay the number of fatalities.

“As per our statistics, 226 people have so far succumbed to the deadly infection in all the 33 districts of Balochistan since its outbreak this year,” spokesman of the corona cell, Dr Waseem Baig, said while talking to The News.

The Balochistan Corona Cell’s daily data reflects that a total number of 12,5742 people have been screened so far, the total number of corona tests performed so far are 56,215. Of them, 11,523 were detected as positive. Besides, 9,818 patients have recovered from the coronavirus.

The death incidents owing to Covid-19 are increasing alarmingly in Balochistan particularly in the remote areas where there is no concept of medical help. “There is no reliable data available to substantiate that how many people have been infected or how many of them died of the pandemic,” said a doctor, on the request not to be named.

The despair among doctors is palpable. Doctors said that hospitals in Quetta have also run out of vital drugs, like Actemra, Remdesvir and Dexamethasone injections, which were recently proven to help in Covid-19 recovery, as well oxygen cylinders. Privately, the attendants of patients have to buy the injections from Karachi and transport them to Quetta. Moreover, the price of oxygen cylinders in the black market is several times higher than the market price.

Regarding the glaring difference in the death figures, MNA Agha Hussan of BNP-Mengal said that the discrepancy could be because the government was only counting the fatalities from the Quetta’s four hospitals, and has not gathered data from the rest of the 32 districts of Balochistan.

After the discrepancies between the Covid-19 death toll reported by the government and figures from other 32 districts came to light, the officials of the health department asserted that the government was not hiding data. Actually, due to long distances and lack of communication and health facilities, they have to face problems in compiling the statistics.

Whatever is the reason, the fact remains that the general impression among the people is that the Government of Balochistan has abandoned them in this state of acute health emergency. The residents of over two dozen districts are still waiting for ventilators in their respective district headquarters hospitals. Perhaps this is the reason that most of the people who can afford, prefer to go Karachi’s hospitals for medical treatment.

“In Balochistan, people are dying of Covid-19 while the provincial govt is procrastinating by claiming to pro vide health facilities soon to the people across the province,” Haji Pir Muhammad, a resident of Loralai, said.

Health in Balochistan is the most neglected sector as the provincial government allocated Rs38 billion for it in the current fiscal year budget i.e. 2020-21. Of them Rs. 31.40 billion are being spent on non-development expenditures, while the remaining Rs7.05 billion for purchasing medicines, X-ray films and other disposable items.

Besides, Rs4.5 billion was allocated for the prevention of coronavirus. The opposition parties in Balochistan Assembly held the provincial government responsible for the spread of the virus across the country, saying that had it taken appropriate measures instead of mishandling at the Taftan Quarantine, the catastrophic spread of the lethal virus could have been prevented.