COVID Watch | 04th August 2020


No ‘silver bullet’ for COVID-19

Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr. Tedros Adhanom stated that while there is hope for the development of a vaccine, and many experimental trials are indeed in their later stages as researchers inch close to a breakthrough, there is a need to prepare for the possibility that there may be “silver bullet” to defeat COVID-19 completely.

Meanwhile, commercial production of antibodies to counter the virus may in fact be the next step in combatting the novel coronavirus. This is similar to biotech used in treating cancer and other diseases and would mean manufacturing antibodies that are created especially to target COVID-19. These are monoclonal antibodies, which are essentially copies of the human body’s natural COVID-19 antibodies.

COVID-19 outbreak on Eid unlikely

Experts have dismissed the likelihood of there being a spike in infections resulting from Eid-ul-Adha in a similar vein to the massive outbreak that occurred at Eid-ul-Fitr.

Experts such as Professor Khalid Mahmood at the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar claimed that a certain portion of the population has developed immunity to the virus owing to having previously been infected by it, making transmission difficult.

Furthermore, he argued that given the extreme heat right now as compared to during Eid-ul-Fitr, fewer people go out, and meetings and gatherings are less common. Experts such as Health Net Hospital’s Professor Mohammad Amjad Taqweem and Khyber Medical University Vice-Chancellor Professor Ziaul Haq echoed his claims, but also stressed that all this depends on whether or not the public followed SOPs during Eid.

They also discouraged large gatherings even after Eid, as these would immediately result in a major surge. Experts have also mentioned that the increased experience of public institutions and officials in dealing with the pandemic would help the situation.

National death toll decreases

Pakistan has seen its lowest reported coronavirus-related death toll since April, with 6 deaths recorded nationwide on August 1.

Though this is the smallest number of fatalities reported in one day since April, recent reports of people not going to hospitals and letting their relatives die at home due to fear and stigma associated with the virus mean that one cannot be sure that actual deaths are not going underreported.

Meanwhile, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah reported 219 new infections in Sindh between Sunday, August 2 and Monday, August 3. He also spoke positively of the detection rate, which he said has fallen to 5%, and the recovery rate, which he claimed was at 91%.

Punjab & Balochistan diverge on lockdown

The Balochistan government will continue its ‘smart-lockdown’ policy until August 17, stressing that the threat of the virus has not dissipated.

The province has recorded a total of 11,774 cases and 136 deaths to date. The smart lockdown, crafted to counter the pandemic, requires all schools and universities to remain closed, as well as public gathering spaces like parks or wedding halls. Essential services will continue to operate, though there are also restrictions on transport (no more than two people per car), and a mandate to wear masks in public spaces.

These measures continue despite Balochistan not having recorded any new deaths for more than ten days.

However, in Punjab, positive change in the course of the pandemic has led the provincial government to lift the smart lockdown several days earlier than planned, opening businesses that were temporarily shuttered due to Eid-related measures. While schools, cinemas, and restaurants remain closed, most major cities in Punjab are no longer under lockdown.

COVID-19 numbers & testing spark debate

The Punjab government has cut down the number of COVID-19 tests in the province, provoking alarm from experts.

Government numbers show that the province has conducted 5,301 tests in the last 24 hours, despite a reported daily testing capacity of 17,000. Some health experts and doctors opine that the provincial government decreased testing in light of the positive case ratio in Punjab falling to 10%, and to reduce financial waste.

However, others are alarmed by and critical of the provincial government’s actions, and have accused them of deliberately cutting down testing to avoid reproach over the pandemic, and of risking thousands of lives in the process for the sake of financial efficiency.

Meanwhile, experts are also warning that Balochistan is home to countless unreported infections, especially in isolated areas within the province. While official reports claim that the number of deaths in Balochistan is currently at 90, independent sources accuse officials of drastically underreporting cases, especially in remote, rural areas. Dr. Waseem Baig, the spokesperson of the corona cell, has estimated the number of deaths in Balochistan at 226, according to independent statistics.

94% infected policemen recover

Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Shoaib Dastagir confirmed that over 94% of police who tested positive for the novel coronavirus disease have managed to completely recovered and return to the force.

Of about 1,700 police personnel who were taken ill, over 1,600 are now back at work, as per the IGP’s statement on Friday, July 31. The police have been heavily involved in trying to enforce the lockdown and ensuring that the public follows SOPs, which often makes them vulnerable to illness.