COVID Watch | 17th July 2020



Cheaper drugs for poorer countries

Swiss drug company Novartis has announced that it will sell generic drugs that can mitigate the myriad symptoms of the novel coronavirus disease directly to developing countries without profiting off of the sales. These drugs include antibiotics, steroids, blood thinners, and anti-diarrhoea drugs used in treating of COVID-19 patients.

The policy is part of Novartis’s aim to keep healthcare systems in 79 countries, which (by the World Bank’s definition) constitute the developing world, stable until there is a vaccine to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

290,000 Islamabad residents infected

A new survey has indicated that about 290,000 people in Islamabad have been infected by COVID-19, and that many of these individuals are asymptomatic. The survey also suggests that Islamabad may slowly attain herd immunity to the virus.

Over the past 24 hours, the national caseload has risen to 259,401, as 2,276 new infections have been added to the total. 49 patients have also died during the past 24 hours, and the death toll is now approaching 5,500.

However, on a positive note, government records show that about 183,737 people have recovered from the virus.

Sindh extends smart lockdown

The Sindh government ordered on Thursday, July 16 the continuation of its smart lockdown policy in numerous Sindh districts, as well as areas in Karachi, after discussions with the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC). The policy will apparently remain in place for a month at the very least, given that the virus continues to pose a major threat especially in urban areas.

The Sindh government has stressed that it will not lift restrictions if it entails a human toll, and that while the healthy function of the economy was incredibly important, it could not be at the cost of human life and societal wellbeing. Public gatherings like weddings remain banned.

PIMS on alert for COVID-19 surge

The Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) is on high alert in preparation for a possible upswing in COVID-19 infections during Eid al-Azha and Muharram, when cattle markets and congregations will make large gatherings far more likely.

Between July 20 and September 20, employees at PIMS will be unable to go on leave, and even protest activity will be forbidden so as to limit large gatherings as much as possible. A separate laboratory has also been set up so that patients who may have contracted the virus can be tested without having to enter the main hospital. PIMS pharmacy and other department staff have been instructed to stock up on medical supplies.

Asad Umar claims cases decreasing

Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar claimed that the COVID-19 positivity rate in Pakistan is in recession. In a 24 hour window, 24,262 people were tested, of whom only 2,145 were diagnosed positive, citing this as a 60% reduction in the positivity rate recorded mid-June.

Umar’s claims come after opposition parties such as the PPP levied allegations against the federal government of suppressing testing, leading to fewer registered positive cases. He has defended the government’s testing policy, although the Ministry of National Health Services Regulation and Coordination pointed out that on July 7 Pakistan tested 21,951 people nationwide, a figure that is only 30% of the country’s total testing capacity.

Furthermore, of the 24,262 tests that took place on July 16, nearly half were conducted in Sindh which recorded 11,060 tests. Meanwhile Punjab, despite being the most populous province in Pakistan, recorded only 7,493. Numbers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan were even lower, at 1,875 and 499 respectively.

Punjab inmates find relief

As COVID-19 cases decline in Punjab’s jails, restrictions are being lifted and inmates transferred back to jails in Lahore.

Inmates are now allowed family visits once again, provided that strict SOPs are followed. A large number of inmates and prison personnel reportedly tested negative, resulting in the relaxation of restrictions. Furthermore, jail authorities have also decided to screen incoming prisoners, ensuring that they have been tested negative for the virus at specific hospitals.