NEW YORK, Aug 2 (APP): Pakistan, where the coronavirus was spreading uncontrollably about two months ago, has “radically turned the tide, recording a sharp drop in coronavirus cases and deaths, both of which are down more than 80% from their peaks, ”a major US newspaper reported on Sunday.
Large hospitals are reporting beds are opening up in previously overflowing coronavirus wards, even in Pakistan’s largest and hardest-hit city, Karachi, the Wall Street Journal said in a dispatch from Islamabad. “The number of patients on ventilators has halved over the past month,” correspondent Saeed Shah wrote in the dispatch, headline: “Why young and conservative Pakistan is a bright spot for coronavirus.”
“All of this is happening as Pakistan’s neighbors to the east and west of India and Iran are still reporting that infection rates are steadily rising,” the Journal said. Even more surprisingly, he said progress in Pakistan came after Prime Minister Imran Khan resisted advice from the World Health Organization (WHO), saying in May that lockdowns are too costly for the poor and reopening. economy. “We have charted the difficult path between a strict lockdown and a full opening,” said Dr. Faisal Sultan, an infectious disease physician. by Prime Minister Imran Khan as an adviser on COVID-19.
Pakistan’s success report comes as even the United States, a superpower with enormous resources at its disposal, still struggles to control the pandemic, with 4.7 million cases and 157,000 deaths. Pakistani health officials did not declare a victory, the report said, adding that they feared progress could be reversed, especially with the current Eid al-Adha holiday and the upcoming Muharram that involve traditionally public gatherings across the country.
Relatively low testing levels in Pakistan have also raised questions about the magnitude of the drop, the Journal noted, but citing medical experts, saying the recovery trend was clear. Tellingly, the proportion of tests coming back positive has more than halved, he said, citing official figures.
Pakistan locked down its economy in March, at the start of its epidemic, which prevented the virus from spreading widely while people stayed at home, correspondent Shah said. But after the restrictions were lifted in May, many Pakistanis celebrated the end of the fasting month of Ramadan with shopping sprees and family visits. This sparked an explosion of infections, wrote correspondent Shah.
The rapid spread has prompted people to change their behavior, with more wearing masks, washing hands and maintaining social distancing, Dr Sultan said. Preventive messages from government and public service campaigns have multiplied. The prime minister has also started wearing a mask in public, the report pointed out. The government has moved to a strategy of targeted lockdowns of local areas where a group cases had arisen, sometimes just a street. Residential data and experience that health officials have gained over the past few years from a massive polio vaccination campaign have been used to identify hot spots.
Schools, wedding venues and restaurants remained closed, he said, adding that long-distance travel was still limited.
These days, Dr Faisal Mahmood, a professor at the Aga Khan University Teaching Hospital in Karachi, reportedly said he sees more people in his clinic who have problems recovering from COVID-19 than those currently. infected. is real, although I was initially skeptical, ”said Dr. Mahmood.
From a peak of nearly 7,000 new cases of infection per day in June, the country reported 903 new cases on Friday. This week, Pakistan recorded its lowest death toll in three months, with 27 on Friday.
So far, less than 6,000 people have died, with 278,000 cases of infection recorded. Brazil, which Pakistan was initially compared with for peak infections, is roughly the same size as Pakistan. But the Latin American country has reported more than 92,000 deaths and 2.7 million cases, according to Johns Hopkins University, a United States-based research institution.
At the height of Pakistan in mid-June, major hospitals in major cities said they were overwhelmed. The highest number of patients to die in one day was 153 on June 20. “The decline in Pakistan is promising,” Anna Vassall, professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said in the dispatch. “But we are not yet certain of the cause, nor of its duration. The spread of COVID-19 is driven by social behavior and it is difficult to measure how this has changed. “
The modeling had predicted that countries like Pakistan would broadly follow the coronavirus trends seen in the West, producing grim predictions, the report said. A simulation from Imperial College London produced a worst-case scenario of 30,000 deaths per day in early August.
But health experts say Pakistan has unique characteristics that have likely been helpful in fighting the virus. In particular, they say, the young population and conservative, male-dominated Muslim society have limited exposure to the virus: only 4% of the Pakistani population is over 65, compared to 16% in the United States and 23%. in Italy, according to United Nations data. . The average age in Pakistan is 22, more than ten years younger than Brazil and 25 years younger than Italy, also noting that there are no bars and nightclubs. There are also no institutionalized homes for the elderly, sites of deadly epidemics elsewhere. Women tend not to leave their homes to work, which means that the workforce is overwhelmingly made up of men who are mostly young, I was pointed out. Adnan Khan, a doctor who is knowledge director at Research and Development Solutions, a consulting firm, reportedly said social circles in all countries are limited to family, friends, co-workers and more. Some economic research suggests that social networks are smaller in poorer countries, he said.
The virus has infected a large part of the population exposed to it in Pakistan and so far there may have been a lack of places to go, he said. Still, there are likely other parts of the population that remain vulnerable to the disease, especially in small towns and rural areas, although it is more difficult for the virus to spread there, the said. Dr Khan.
For supporters of the Prime Minister, the diminishing threat of coronavirus is a political triumph. Critics had predicted earlier that his strategy would lead to disaster. The Pakistani military, which played a very important role in the coronavirus response, has also gained public esteem, the Journal said, citing analysts.
Officials say complacency could still reverse people’s behavior and spread the disease. Schools will likely open in September for wedding halls. The government has called on the public to exercise restraint on the Eid holiday this weekend. As farmers return from selling their animals for slaughter in cities, they could carry the virus to rural areas for the first time, experts warn.
“Now is not the time to declare victory,” said Dr Sultan, adviser to the prime minister. “Now is the time for humble soul-searching and planning ahead.”
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