COVID Watch (13th April 2020)


100 Medics Test Positive

Around a hundred health workers across Pakistan have contracted COVID-19 since the country’s first two cases were confirmed on February 26, 2020. The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) cited a worrying lack of quality personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as poor-quality gear doing little to protect doctors and paramedics from exposure to the virus while tending to patients.

On the other hand, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza laid the onus on health workers, citing improper use of equipment such as N95 masks as the reason behind high infection rate among medics. Stating that not all health workers needed the masks, Dr. Mirza urged health workers to use them in line with the World Health Organization’s guidelines.

Dr. Mirza warned that the number of cases will inflate in the coming weeks, and urged the populace to practice social distancing and other preventative measures to limit local transmissions and prevent burdening the healthcare system.

A Tableeghi Jamaat held on March 10 despite warnings from authorities and government bodies is cited as Pakistan’s “super-spreader”, with nearly 500 cases traced to the congregation. To date, 20,000 attendees have been quarantined.

Lock-Down Extended?

A meeting of the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), chaired by Minister for Planning, Development, Reforms and Special Initiatives Asad Umer, was held today on April 13 to draw recommendations for the National Coordination Committee (NCC) on lockdown regulations after April 14. The recommendations will also address SOPs for traders and businesses during the pandemic, and support plans for the underprivileged/vulnerable communities.

Meanwhile, the Corona Experts Advisory Group (CEAG) has suggested extending the provincial lockdown for another two weeks as cases continue to surge in Punjab. Punjab has been hit the hardest, accounting for 48% of the national total. Medics report that all new cases of COVID-19 were locally transmitted due to lack of adherence to social distancing and other precautions.

Disinfection of Slums

Sanitary workers in Islamabad are pleading with authorities to disinfect slums and katchi-abadis which house over 60,000 of the capital’s underprivileged, according to the Interfaith League Against Poverty (ILAP). Sanitary workers, who mostly belong to the minority Christian community, reside in these shantytowns. Due to the lack of PPE, and other gear such as masks and gloves, sanitary workers are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 as they remove garbage produced by residents and hospitals where possible coronavirus-positive patients may be treated.

Mobile Testing for Slums

Sindh Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah has directed the health department to initiated mobile testing and screening facilities for residents of katchi-abadis. Due to several cases now emerging from slums, the Sindh Chief Minister has also suggested relocating residents to isolation wards as social distancing and self-quarantined is highly unlikely in shanty towns where several people reside in the same room. The Sindh government has also ordered the purchase of 190,000 testing kits.