Eid, a mass transmission event, will test the limits of our healthcare resources.
With the third wave of coronavirus raging in several cities of Pakistan, this Eid brings with it an eminent threat of massive transmission. However, this year we are equipped with an ongoing vaccination drive and a more experienced healthcare system. In addition, the government has taken extra precaution by implementing a week long break for Eid. This, coupled with strict lockdowns on weekends, is intended to control the spread of Covid-19 over Eid.
With only a tiny fraction of the population vaccinated in Pakistan, Eid has come amidst the third wave of infections. There have been more than 800,000 cases of infection and 18,000 deaths in the country. While it is true that doctors, at Mayo Hospital in Lahore and other tertiary care hospitals, are more confident and knowledgeable now in dealing with this new threat, Eid, a mass transmission event, will test the limits of our healthcare resources.
If precaution is not taken, we will see a spread to areas where the virus has not gained a foothold so far as citizens return to their homes for the holiday. This will provide a gateway to the new strains of the virus which include the South American and UK variants to reach households even in far-away villages. We have to remain mindful of the fact that congregations can become super-spreader events. The Kumbh Mela in our neighboring India turned a large number of pilgrims into super spreaders that put the country at the mercy of the virus. The religious event has been called the single largest super spreader event. It created the perfect environment for the virus to spread. Such events, although outdoor, have the ability to promote airborne transmission of the virus via respiratory droplets. Our traditional Eid greeting that involves ritual embraces has to be avoided to curtail the threat of virus transmission.
The government once again finds itself responsible for making the right decision with regards to lockdown measures. As a medical professional I will always vote on the side of caution. The economic toll of an ill population outweighs a slowing down of productive activity for a week or two. The week-long Eid holidays, delaying examinations, prolonging school closures and ban on inter-city public transport are all steps in the right direction. But, as is often the case, implementation is another subject and the administration has to fully enforce these well intentioned policies. Reports of more than 600 students taking A-level examination in a hall are an example of failure of implementation. The decisions to allow visitors from the UK in the last two months and allowing weddings to continue have proved deadly. The rampant UK variant in our cities is a consequence of this decision.
This does not absolve the citizenry of their responsibility. We need to understand that we cannot afford to put ourselves in a kind of position our neighboring country finds itself in. Abundant precaution has helped us endure two spikes in infections. We need to practice even more caution this time around.
The writer is an MD, a resident of surgery at the Einstein Medical Centre, Philadelphia, and a graduate of the King Edward Medical University