Due to dull vaccination drive, Pak may witness third wave of COVID-19: Experts
Health experts have warned that Pakistan may witness a resurgence in the number of COVID-19 cases that might lead to a third wave of coronavirus in the country as restrictions related to the virus have been relaxed.
There has been a lukewarm response of even health workers to the government-run vaccination campaign. The country has reported over 5,81,00 COVID-19 cases and 12,896 deaths so far and on Monday, as many as 1,176 COVID-19 cases were reported.
On Feburary 24, Pakistan’s National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on COVID-19 relaxed most of the restrictions on commercial activities, schools, offices and other workplaces, allowing them to function at full strength.
Under the directives, time limit on commercial activities has been lifted and the condition of 50 per cent attendance at workplaces removed.
Schools have been asked to function five days a week with full strength. Permission to hold indoor wedding ceremonies and opening of cinemas and shrines has been granted with effect from March 15.
The decision to allow indoor dining will depend on the outcome of the review meeting to be held on March 10.
Secretary-General of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) Dr Qaisar Sajjad said: “We are living in a society where people do not follow the SOPs. They even laugh at those wearing face masks. We have already observed the results of lifting of restrictions in September last year when 100 to 200 daily cases were being reported, and within a month the government had to declare a second wave of coronavirus.”
“I believe that restrictions should be lifted after vaccinating 70pc population as only then we can get herd immunity. Just two weeks ago, three cases were reported in Melbourne, Australia. Though all three persons had arrived through foreign flights but the whole Melbourne city was closed for five days. It is unfortunate that we are taking even over 1,000 cases lightly,” he added.
While pointing out that the response to the vaccination drive in Pakistan was very slow, Dr Sajjad blamed the government for it and said that no one had bothered to handle the issue seriously.
“Actors have been engaged for vaccination campaign rather than renowned doctors. How a person can get medical advice from an actor? Moreover, advertisements should be shown during peak hours. Currently, we see a bombardment of advertisements during PSL matches but we don’t see a single ad on vaccination during matches. Also, data of healthcare workers, who have been vaccinated so far, is not being shared. We don’t know how many general practitioners, nurses, etc have been vaccinated,” he said.
Due to the lukewarm response to the vaccination, Islamabad’s biggest hospital, Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) has warned its employees of disciplinary action.
“Unfortunately, the government was looking at the issue with a mere focus on the country’s economic growth rather than public health”, Dr Javaid Usman, a microbiologist, said.
“Possibility of a third wave cannot be ruled out. We are giving another opportunity to the virus to bounce back. We should not forget that now there are more than one variant of the virus in Pakistan and they are more infectious and transmissible. Luckily, they are not as virulent as the previous type. But it is not a good decision to lift restrictions as cases are continuously fluctuating and we have been observing sudden spikes,” he said.