Cases rising again

November 22, 2020

The increasing number of Covid-19 infections is being blamed mostly on a lack of seriousness in adopting precautionary measures

Pakistan, globally admired not so long ago for its success in controlling the coronavirus pandemic, has seen an alarming increase more recently in the number of fresh infections as well as a worsening of the mortality rate.

The phenomenon has been described as a second wave of the pandemic. The number of those testing positive as a fraction of all tests has risen rapidly. This has added to the worries of the people as well as the government. The NCOC (the highest policymaking body) has hinted at severe mobility restrictions over the coming days and urged people to take precautions against infection and not to expose themselves to crowds and congregations unnecessarily.

The ‘second wave’ started a few weeks ago. Over the past three weeks the total number of active cases has gone up from 5,000 to 30,000. The total number of documented corona-related deaths has crossed 7,000. The projections show that Pakistan may cross the 400,000 Covid-19 positive cases mark by the end of next month.

The country’s highest authorities as well as health experts have been warning people from time to time against laxity in taking preventive measures. Prime Minister Imran Khan, in particular, has been warning people not to take the success story lightly and urged them to continue to follow the recommended best practice to prevent a second wave of infections. Speaking at the end of October, the prime minister, announced the start of a second wave and warned people to take care.

“There are several reasons for the rise in the number of cases. The first, I think, was the premature celebration of a victory over coronavirus,” Dr Qaisar Sajjad, the Pakistan Medical Association secretary general, tells TNS. He says once the success story narrative was established people started taking things easy and stopped taking the necessary precautions. That led to a faster spread of the disease. He says wearing a face mask came to be considered odd and people were once again freely moving everywhere without a care. He also says the virus has probably mutated with the change in weather and is affecting people more severely than it did in the past. “If people continue to ‘damn care’ the number of cases will rise further,” Dr Sajjad fears.

The PMA, as well as other orgnisations of doctors, have been warning the government and the people to focus on precautionary measures and not think that the virus has ceased to be threat. The Association has also been opposed to an early easing of the lockdown restrictions and the opening of shopping malls, bazaars and schools etc.

“The virus has mutated. More than 30,000 molecules determine its structure. The mutated virus is different from the Chinese virus and appears to be more harmful,” says Dr Atta-ur-Rahman, chairman of the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Science and Technology. He tells TNS that the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences, Karachi, recently analyzed 48 samples of the strains of the virus from Karachi and found that it was becoming deadlier and more infectious and quickly affecting the host body and causing death. He says that the quicker deaths from virus as compared to the past are one of the indications of the mutation and its impact.

The PMA, as well as other orgnisations of doctors, have been warning the government and the people to focus on precautionary measures and not to think that the virus has ceased to be a threat. The association has also been opposed to an early easing of the lockdown restrictions and the opening of shopping malls, bazaars and schools etc.

“Another reason is this increasing Covid fatigue. People are no longer wearing masks and sanitising their hands as regularly as they did a few months ago. This is causing quicker spread of virus and if we do not take appropriate measures there will be more and more cases,” he says. He says best policy is for the people to take care themselves and not rely on official restrictions. “We should understand that there is no limit to this virus now. It will last long until there is vaccination. It is another virus like flue and we have to live with it and take precautions against it.” He says people must be careful and be prepared for a long war with this virus until there is effective vaccination.

The gradual decrease in the number of cases two months ago led many people to believe that the threat was mostly over and resulted in laxity. People opened their business without caring for the virus. Markets were soon full of people as if there was no virus around. Now with the rise in the numbers of the sick and the dying the government has banned indoor gatherings and is planning to shut down schools for another two months. It has restricted the restaurants and is asking markets to follow a limited hours schedule.

“There is no second wave really. The virus has been around all the time. It is once again affecting people in large numbers because they have stopped taking precautionary measures. People were safer a few weeks ago not because the virus was gone but because more people were being cautious. As soon as they stopped taking the preventive measures it started affecting them,” says Prof Javed Akram, the University of Health Sciences vice chancellor. He says there is no evidence yet that the virus has become more deadly. The only way out, he says, is to form good habits so that we act in a safe way without thinking about it.

The author is a staff reporter. He can be reached at [email protected]

Coronavirus cases on the rise again in Pakistan