With Eidul Azha just a few days away, Pakistan recorded 675 new coronavirus cases on Monday, bringing the positive national rate to 4.61 percent.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), two persons died from the virus in the last 24 hours. During this time, 14,632 tests were performed, with 153 patients receiving critical care.
In a press conference today, federal Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel expressed concern over the recent spike in hospitalization and positive rates. “Our average death rate is 1.5 percent, and the average number of patients on ventilators is five.”
He said that most infections were caused by the novel Omicron sub-variant BA.5, which spreads more quickly.
“The NCOC (National Command and Operation Centre) is vigilantly monitoring cases, and we are prepared for any scenario,” said the minister.
He explained that all provinces had been directed to establish isolation centers and that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) had also been tasked with this task.
Patel stated that the government was considering mass testing, particularly in major cities such as Karachi. However, in response to the Covid spike in the town, he stated that the positive rate had recently reduced and that now was not the “appropriate time” to impose a smart lockdown.
“However, we’ve seen that there is still a lack of understanding among the public,” he noted.
The minister also mentioned that two holy holidays, Eidul Azha and Muharram, were approaching, possibly increasing cases. Therefore, he recommended that people stay inside throughout the Eid holiday.
Previously, the authorities had made masks required in all enclosed areas and asked people to refrain from embracing or shaking hands with others during the festivities. Furthermore, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) mandated wearing face masks on domestic flights.
As Covid fatigue sets in, low testing skews data.
Government authorities have blamed distorted data on a decrease in testing. In addition, they believe that pandemic fatigue, an expected and reasonable response to a lengthy public health catastrophe, has led residents and health officials to treat the pandemic “like a normal disease.”
“Regrettably, we placed more focus on the positivity rate than the number of tests,” Dr. Javed Akram, a Covid-19 scientific task team member, told Dawn on Sunday.
According to various sampling procedures, every fourth or fifth house and shop from the starting point should be included in the data, and all people present should be tested.
“The sample size is more important than the positive rate.” “We must remember that 30% of people never acquire symptoms because they are asymptomatic, yet they continue to propagate the virus,” Dr. Akram stated.
“We must remember that, while Covid’s virulence has decreased over time, its transmissibility has increased.” So far, the only way to control the virus is to do enormous testing,” he explained.
Dr. Akram, also the vice-chancellor of the University of Health Sciences, stated that the media has stopped emphasizing Covid.
Meanwhile, a Ministry of National Health Services official who did not want to be identified said the number of Covid cases was doubling every five days, hospitalizations had begun to rise, and deaths had resurfaced.
“It’s troubling that testing beyond Karachi, Islamabad, and Lahore shows little signs of improvement despite repeated pushes,” he said.
He also described the NCOC shutdown as a considerable setback. The previous administration dismantled the NCOC, which was in charge of the country’s Covid response when infection counts hit their lowest point since the outbreak began in early 2020.
“The NCOC was practically run by the army, with the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) pushing the media to run stories and campaigns on the pandemic and raise awareness among the masses about the importance of getting tested, vaccinated, and strictly adhering to standard operating procedures (SOPs),” he said.
With the NCOC gone, the health ministry could not regulate the media in the same manner that ISPR was, according to the source, who added that as time passed, citizens began to believe that the pandemic had been vanquished.
Although the center had been revived, he noted that the federal health minister still chaired it.