October 28th, 2020
By Asra Haque and Adina Shahid
During a press briefing on Tuesday, October 27, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan formally announced that the second wave has begun in Pakistan. Around 700 to 750 fresh coronavirus cases are being reported on a daily basis, compared to just 200 to 300 some weeks ago, he noted, pointing out that the daily case positivity rate has also been on a steady incline and may surpass three percent soon.
The SAPM informed that strict implementation of SOPs and health protocols will commence on the local level in districts that are badly hit by the pandemic. While currently the government is still mulling restrictions, district administrators have been advised to fine public transport services, wedding halls, restaurants and other public gatherings to discourage people from congregating and continuing to further transmit COVID-19.
Businesses will be issued a time window during which they will be allowed to operate. Meanwhile the government is devising a platform to receive and register complaints from citizens regarding SOP violations and other concerns, he added.
Furthermore, the Deputy Commissioner of Islamabad Muhammad Hamza Shafqaat on Wednesday, October 28, announced that section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) which gives power to issue order absolute at once in urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger will be imposed in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) for a period of two months. Under the order, anyone found to be not wearing a mask or face cover in public spaces will face arrest.
Where Dr. Faisal Sultan would issue the alert, a total of 825 samples out of the 29,477 collected that day would return positive. As of Tuesday, the daily case positivity rate was 2.8% – it has been on a slow but steady incline since the past several weeks, while on the other hand the recovery rate continues in the opposite direction, dropping down to 94.4% as 374 patients managed to beat COVID-19. Fourteen however succumbed to the viral disease, with Punjab reporting the most deaths (six) while Sindh followed with five fatalities. One fatality each was reported in the Islamabad Capital Territory, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
The first time Pakistan reported a daily case count of over 800 was on April 28. Back then, due to severe limitations in testing, including but not limited to an acute shortage of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) kits, personal protective equipment (PPE), trained healthcare workers and lab technicians, only 8,688 samples were collected, revealing a much frightening case positivity rate of 9.28%. With 26 coronavirus fatalities recorded on that day, the death rate was 2.19% while only 192 managed to recover from the disease, contributing to a recovery rate of 23.01%.
In the following days, Pakistan would continue to suffer a bloating positivity and declining recovery rate, although the death rate would remain slightly upwards of 2% throughout the spread of the contagion in the country. The virus would wreak the most havoc in June, where cases were emerging in the thousands. On June 13, the daily case count reached a peak of 6,825. With 29,546 tests conducted that day, case positivity was calculated at 23.1% while the recovery rate floundered at just 37.16%, a negligible increase from when the contagion first broke out in the country.
In August the number of active cases stabilized to an all-time low, with the positivity rate continuing on a downward trend. A staggering recovery rate of 93.8% was registered between August 15 and August 20. The lowest number of cases post-peak was recorded on August 30 as only 213 COVID-19 infections were detected against 18,017 tests, revealing a positivity rate of 1.18% in tandem with a recovery rate of 94.87%. The lowest fatality count of one was recorded for the first time since the peak on August 28, and then later again on September 19.
In October the number of cases went up from around 500 per day at the beginning of the month to about 700 to 750 cases in the latter half of October, with the positivity ratio jumping to 2.75%. There was a startling increase in active cases, which hit 11,627 as of yesterday, while a total of 6,759 losses have been borne. Around 30,000 tests were conducted on a daily basis this month.
According to these statistics, current projections for the second wave seem a lot more hopeful than they were when the first wave had begun in Pakistan. However, the government is not skimping out on early measures to curb a potentially deadlier boom in cases – with the winter now at our doorstep, other viral infections and morbidities are likely to rise as is often the case as the seasons transition. Coupled with increasing respiratory illnesses due to rising levels of air pollution, particularly smog, the population must contend with COVID-19 with its immunity in a compromised state. It is no wonder that the government is taking swift and strict action to limit the spread of the virus before it reaches the point of no return.
However, the federal government is now struggling to achieve the same sort of success it did in reining in the contagion back in July, owing to a messy attempt to avoid a complete lockdown to spare the economy from further devastation while still somehow ensuring that the populace adheres to SOPs to the letter. Pointing to gatherings at weddings and in restaurants, and wanton disregard for wearing masks and using sanitizers, the government is employing a strategy of imposing fines to discourage such violations. But with cases continuing to emerge in worrying numbers, it is only a matter of time before the authorities are forced to usher in another curfew.