COVID Watch | 15th October 2020


Antigen testing rises amid second wave concerns

Struggling to avert a second coronavirus wave, countries like Germany, the United States, Canada and Italy are all turning to inexpensive but less reliable antigen tests to hasten COVID-19 results. Both polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and antigen tests are meant to pick up active infections. Even though PCR tests are more accurate than the latter, they are becoming deficient especially with the upcoming winter influenza season, leaving health officials desperate for more options.

Federal Directorate of Education and two school buildings in capital sealed

The Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) together with a government and a private school in Islamabad have been sealed after the emergence of COVID-19 cases. So far, two universities, ten government schools and fifteen private schools have been sealed in the capital to date. Out of the 23,000 samples collected from teachers, students and staff members of educational institutions in Islamabad since they opened on September 15, there have been a total of 66 positive cases.

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) kits and staff in short supply in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa hospitals

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, an average of 4,000 tests are being carried every day despite a daily testing capacity of 7,000, due to shortages in the supply of PCR kits. The province has twelve state-owned laboratories in which there are fourteen PCR machines. However, sampling is below capacity due to a lack of committed staff members.

It is difficult for the government to purchase the kits in bulk as they have a steep price. However, Health Secretary Syed Imtiaz Hussain Shah assured that the issue would be settled promptly. The government is going ahead with repairing non-functional machines will increase the Khyber Medical University daily sampling capacity to 2,000 daily. Moreover, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been requested for two more machines to further enhance daily testing.

Lahore High Court rejects doctors’ plea against Pakistan Democratic Movement rally

The Lahore High Court (LHC) dismissed a petition submitting by the Young Doctors Association (YDA) seeking to halt the upcoming Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) rally over heightened COVID-19 risks. Advocate Ahmad Pansota, who represented the doctors’ body, expressed the concern that this rally could potentially become a super-spreader event, putting the public health at stake. However, Justice Masood Abid Naqvi rejected the petition on the basis that the court cannot halt any lawful political activity.

Fine proposed for not wearing masks

To combat the infectious novel coronavirus disease, Karachi administrator Iftikhar Shallwani proposed a fine of Rs. 1,000 for those found not wearing masks in public places. He revealed that he suggested a similar penalty back in March and April when the contagion had first broken out in the country, but it was rejected. However, the proposal has been resubmitted amid fears of an incoming second wave.