TNS talks to Prof Javed Akram, the University of Health Sciences Lahore vice chancellor, on the second wave of coronavirus.
“Covid-19 is neither going anywhere nor can its blade be blunted unless drastic behavioural changes are made. This requires introduction and enforcement of a series of SOPs and vaccination of 20 percent to 40 percent of the population,” says Prof Javed Akram, the University of Health Sciences, Lahore vice chancellor.
“The most important thing in arresting the advance of the pandemic is a deliberate change in our lifestyles. If we adopt good habits like hand washing and sanitaisation, normal life can be restored,” he adds.
In theory, says Prof Akram, the threat of infections spiraling out exponentially cannot be ruled out as long as a single SARS-CoV-2 carrier is around. Precious lives remain at risk.
Prof Akram does not believe that the virus has mutated and evolved into a new strain which is causing the intense second wave. He says there is no scientific evidence to suggest this. “The virus has remained unchanged since it first entered Pakistan,” he says.
He says there is no doubt that a second wave is sweeping through the country and ratio of those diagnosed with the virus to those tested for the infection is rising. It is high time that the government came up with a stern action plan to defuse the situation. The cost of delinquency at this stage can be very high, he warns.
Prof Akram says everybody should realize and acknowledge that Covid-19, is an open enemy. “People must not drop their guard. They have to bear it in their hearts and minds that sanitization has to be a daily routine,” he adds.
“We were lucky to have gone through the first wave with a relatively low number of casualties considering the limitations of our healthcare system and infrastructure. One should not invite peril and count on being lucky every time. A lot of people have yet to wake up to the situation. The health system is getting overburdened. The availability of hospital beds and ventilators, even diagnostic services can become a challenge” he says.
The second wave is going to be a nightmare for health workers as well. As the number of patients requiring urgent attention rises, he says, workloads are going to grow heavy and test doctors, nurses and paramedics alike.
“There is always a degree of difference in how various people are affected by the same virus. One has to be very cautious. Around 40 percent of Covid-19 patients never develop fever. The virus is passed in human faeces; this means that people have to keep their toilets sanitised and disinfected,”
Prof Javed Akram
Prof Akram says there is always a degree of difference in how various people are affected by the same virus. “One has to be very cautious. Around 40 percent of Covid-19 patients never develop fever. The virus is passed in human faeces; this means that people have to keep their toilets sanitised and disinfected,” he explains.
Prof Akram proposes global action to institute preventive measures. He says regular Muslim ablutions for prayer are very good. The ceremonial ablution sanitises exposed body parts - hands, face, head and neck, arms and feet - five times a day.
The UHS VC says to raise public awareness on ways to fight Covid-19, the varsity has launched a telemedicine portal to provide free consultation. The portal can help people learn how they can change their routines to be safe against the virus. The traditional way of diseased people visit hospitals with several attendants not only causes crowding but can also lead to preventable infections.
In case some patient needs hospitalisation the portal will facilitate the arrangements. Such a patient will be shifted to a hospital for the medial cure while ensuring compliance with the SOPs. If a Covid-19 test is required an appropriate team will visit the patient to obtain the sample(s).
Prof Akram says, Pakistan is producing mountains of medical waste contaminated with Covid-19 infectious materials. There is a crying need for robust rules and regulations on handling of the hazardous waste. A delay in this regard alone can lead to new hazards.
The government has yet to come up with SOPs and guidelines on collecting, packing, storing and disposal of highly dangerous Covid-19 infectious medical garbage and sharps. Hospital staff as well as waste collectors need to be trained accordingly.
The United Nation Environment Program (UNEP) issued guidelines on March 24 on effective management of biomedical and health-care waste. Medical waste such as contaminated masks, gloves, used or expired medicines can easily get mixed with domestic garbage.
The writer is a freelance journalist. He can be reached at [email protected]