Elsa Sc S mentions a resurgence of Covid-19 in Pakistan
It was generally believed that the Sixth Covid wave has finally departed from Pakistan and with that people had taken a sigh of relief. Although the killer virus had not impacted Pakistan as bad as many other countries particularly India yet Pakistanis felt that they were living under its threat. However it is now reported that Covid is resurging in many places of the country that has made people to worry about it again. The recent advisory issued asking passengers on PIA internal flights to wear masks while travelling has caused quite a fear within the country. The resurgence of the pandemic in between the hottest months experienced by the country has also surprised people.
It is now reported that new Covid cases have risen to the highest in 80 days with Karachi and Hyderabad now reporting positivity rates of above 10 per cent, a level which, in the past, would have prompted lockdown measures. A significant portion of the population had previously received Covid vaccination and subsequent booster shots but it appears that the efficacy of immunisation has waned over time. People have also grown complacent as the national attention has been diverted to pressing economic and political crises. New strains of the coronavirus have since emerged globally, which are now spreading thanks to relaxations on both domestic and international air travel.
The onset of summer wedding season has compounded challenges as it will bring with it large public gatherings in indoor, air-conditioned spaces — a sure recipe for any ceremony to turn into a so-called super-spreader event. The government has little time to waste: it should immediately launch a public awareness and education drive to urge people to once again adopt preventive measures like the wearing of masks, periodic washing of hands, and avoidance of public gatherings so that maximum number of people are vaccinated.
Though the cases are increasing in Pakistan yet their total number is still relatively small. Moreover, the growing number of cases has not meant more hospitalisations as it has been reported that there is generally a lag of two to three weeks in hospitalisation growth following an increase in the number of cases. It is a matter of satisfaction that more than 85 per cent of the eligible population of Pakistan is fully vaccinated with two doses and 21.7 million have received a booster dose. Vaccinations combined with immunity acquired through infection provide a major barrier against the virus, especially preventing illness severe enough to require hospitalisation. So, unlike the first three waves, this time around, even in the case of the high spread of infection, hospitalisations are expected to be much fewer than before.
Vaccination is critically important but not a perfect barrier against the infection. Currently, Pakistan is generally in a good state of preparedness to deal with the next ripples and waves of Covid-19 but this should not mean complacency though as there is still a lot to worry about. The current variants of the Covid-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2) are BA.4 and BA.5. The exact figures are not known because of limited genetic sequencing facilities in Pakistan but epidemiologists’ educated guess is that their circulation is rising. The evidence about the speed of the spread, lethality and the responsiveness to existing vaccines is also not conclusive though there is some evidence showing that BA.4 and BA.5 can evade the existing vaccines.
Pakistan is not the only country to witness the surge in cases as it is also experienced in India and other countries in the region and also in some European countries and the US. However, experience has shown that compliance with preventive mandates is low in Pakistan and what is needed is a combined action both by the government and people. Most importantly people should start taking matters seriously now. Though there are strong chances that with high rates of vaccination, including boosters, and adherence to precautionary measures, the spread of infection will not go out of control; even if the virus spreads, moderate to severe cases are likely to be rare. But it should always be kept in view that there is always the possibility of something unpredictable happening in the course of the epidemic.
It is important therefore that people should avoid unnecessary mingling indoors, ensure fresh air by keeping the windows open, start wearing a mask in closed places where people have to sit close to one another, complete vaccination course of two doses and get boosters. It is also imperative that advance safety measures are resorted to particularly in wake of the expected rush during the Eid-ul-Azha when people tend to intermingle a lot during the process of sacrificing animals. People should also be advised to be careful while visiting markets selling animals and maintain a distance with each other along with wearing masks. TW