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Pakistan records highest number of COVID-19 cases for fifth consecutive day

A private security guard (R) checks the body temperature of a man before entering a bank in Islamabad. Source: AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images

The country saw its highest number of cases in a single day recording 6,825 cases on 13th June 2020. In the past 24 hours, it has recorded 5,248 cases taking the total number to 144,478.

With 97 deaths recorded over the last day the death toll from Covid-19 in Pakistan is 2,729 putting the country among the top 15 countries with the highest number of cases.

Pakistan’s planning minister has warned that cases across the country could surge reaching 1.2 million by the end of July if serious measures are not followed to curb the spread.

The warning comes after lockdowns were eased last month to accommodate the celebration of Eid which has since caused a spike in the spread of infections.


Highlights:

  • Pakistan records the highest number of COVID-19 cases fifth day in a row
  • Coronavirus cases could reach up to 1.2 million by the end of July
  • Health system in Pakistan on the brink of collapse 

Planning Minister, Asad Umar, while addressing a press conference in Islamabad said that a long-term lockdown is not feasible for any country.

“We have to enforce smart lockdowns in hotspots because this way we can stop the spread in areas that are witnessing outbreaks and at the same time protect jobs and livelihoods by not imposing complete lockdowns,” said Mr Umar.

covid 19 cases rise in pakistan
Muslims offer Eid al-Fitr prayers in Peshawar after a relaxation on COVID-19 lockdownds in Pakistan.
ABDUL MAJEED/AFP via Getty Images

Hospitals Overwhelmed

Hospitals are struggling to treat patients and some places have run out of capacity as cases spiked over the last two weeks.

As reported by Al Jazeera doctors fear that the health infrastructure is on the brink of collapse due to the fragile health system with only six hospital beds per 10,0000 people.

"There has not been a single day in the last week where we had a single bed available, only if someone died or was discharged could we replace them with a new patient," said Dr Naveed Ahmed Khan, a surgeon at Peshawar's Hayatabad Medical Complex.

covid 19 cases in Pakistan
Pakistan COVID-19 stats as of 15th June 2:00pm. Updated stats can be found on covid.gov.pk
Government of Pakistan Covid Website

Local GP Dr Tabinda Malik who works in Langwarrin and Narre Warren medical clinics told SBS Urdu that what Pakistan is going through "is nothing new."

"We have seen a similar situation in Europe especially Italy, Spain and Greece. This is the same situation where the medical per capita population resources are below the population itself.

"I wouldn’t say that it is the failure of the medical health system. It’s just that we have never seen pandemic of this amount where people have required specialised facilities like ventilators," said Dr Malik. 

Thirty-seven frontline health workers have died due to coronavirus and almost 3,700 have been infected to date.

Dr Rizwan Saigol, who works at the Mayo Hospital in Lahore, has told the BBC that even prior to the pandemic he had seen families "begging for ventilators". Now, he said, the situation feels "really scary…we do not have enough ICUs or ventilators".

covid cases pakistan on the rise
Commuters make their way through a traffic jam on a street in Karachi on June 8, 2020.
ASIF HASSAN/AFP via Getty Images

Stricter lockdowns

The World Health Organisation has urged Pakistan to return lockdowns intermittently and suggesting tighter restrictions.

In a letter sent to the provincial governments last week, WHO's head of Mission in Pakistan Dr Palitha Mahipala said that the country did not meet any of the organisation's technical criteria for easing a lockdown.

“WHO strongly recommends the government adapt the two weeks off and two weeks on [restriction] strategy,”

"There is limited capacity to provide critical care and the population is not ready to adapt to change behaviour," said Dr Mahipala.

Dr Tabinda Malik said that "lockdowns in developed countries" are easier as people "still get money in welfare states while staying at home."

But "in a country like Pakistan which is not a welfare state," it is not as simple. "People either they die of the disease first or they die from poverty and no food. Dr Malik told SBS Urdu.

"So there’s not much of a choice here.  People who can afford to sit at home and survive is a better option than having a strict lockdown because in that case a lot of poverty will flourish and cause a lot of death either way." she further added. 

Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that “lockdowns aren’t the solution” and we need to move towards a “smart lockdown” strategy.

Local testing kit approved

The World Health organisation has also emphasised that it is “extremely important” for Pakistan to increase the capacity of testing beyond 50,000 daily.

The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) has approved the first locally made testing kit which is expected to reduce the cost of testing and help improve the rate of testing across the country.

covid cases pakistan on the rise
A health official takes blood sample of a man as others wait for their turn at a drive-through screening and testing facility for COVID-19 in Islamabad.
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images

At the moment 30,000 tests are conducted daily which is expected to increase to 100,000-150,000 over the next 4-6 weeks according to planning minister Asad Umar.  

“We were only testing 500 people at the start [of the pandemic]. Now we are able to conduct 30,000 tests per day and the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has decided to take our capacity to more than 100,000 tests per day by the end of July,” said Mr Umar.  

Federal Minister for Science and Technology congratulated the team behind the development and said that this would reduce the import bill quite significantly.

The testing kit is expected to cost around 2000 rupees (20 AUD) one-fourth of the current price.

The first case of COVID-19 in Pakistan was reported 109 days ago on 2/25/2020.


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