Coronavirus News Asia

Pakistan’s Covid-19 timebomb set to explode

PESHAWAR – When Pakistan reported its first Covid-19 case in mid-March, ruling Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) leaders shrugged off the early warning as a mere mild case of the flu.

Four months later, Pakistan has surged moved up the global coronavirus infection tables into 15th place with over 181,088 cases and 3,590 fatalities. Health authorities reported 4,471 new cases over the last 24 hours as of mid-day on Monday.  

As other virus-hit nations exit lockdowns and restart their economies, Pakistan’s Covid-19 situation is deteriorating, not ameliorating as the virus starts its lethal spread through the nation’s congested urban areas including slum dwellings.    

The fast surge in new cases is already overwhelming hospitals, with news reports of angry families of Covid-19 patients attacking doctors and smashing health care facilities because they are being turned away by healthcare givers. Local headlines suggest patients are now “literally fighting for hospital beds.”

The country has so far conducted 1.1 million tests, authorities say, meaning the scale of the health crisis may be much larger than indicated in official statistics.  

Asad Umar, head of the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) directing Pakistan’s Covid-19 battle, said earlier this month the country could at current trends have 1.2 million infections by the end of July.

None of these revelations appear to be effecting Prime Minister Imran Khan, who’s government continues to play down the rising warnings. Indeed, there is little to no indication that Khan aims to impose the social distancing measures experts say are needed to arrest the viral spread and avoid a massive human catastrophe.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks at UN Headquarters in New York on September 27, 2019. Photo: AFP/Don Emmert

The signs of government mismanagement and inconsistent policies are widely apparent. On June 15, the Punjab Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department told Punjab’s Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar that Punjab’s capital, Lahore, now has over 700,000 Covid-19 cases.

The medical department said that every commercial and residential area in Lahore has been impacted by the disease and recommended a complete lockdown, adding that “asymptomatic cases became the main source of infection and local transmission” in the metropolis.

Khan’s government has not yet acted on the provincial department’s recommendation to impose strict quarantine measures. Lahore reported 1,294 new cases over the weekend, according to official statistics.

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