Pakistan’s virus tally tops China’s as doctors warn of health crisis

A rush of people on Thursday outside an electronics market in Karachi, after Pakistan started easing the lockdown restrictions. (Reuters)
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Updated 05 June 2020

Pakistan’s virus tally tops China’s as doctors warn of health crisis

  • The spike in COVID-19 cases started immediately after the government eased the lockdown restrictions in mid-May

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s coronavirus infections have surpassed neighboring China — once the region’s hotbed — as the national tally on Thursday reached 86,913, with doctors warning the government of a health crisis in the coming days if appropriate measures are not taken to flatten the curve.

China, where the virus emerged last year, has recorded 84,160 cases and imposed strict lockdowns to curb the disease. But in Pakistan, with 1,770 reported deaths and the infection count nearing 87,000, has been easing lockdowns countrywide since mid-May.

“People should not get scared by the surge in cases. It’s a pandemic and we need to deal with it wisely and courageously,” Sajid Hussain Shah, spokesperson at the Ministry of National Health Services and Regulations, told Arab News on Thursday.

A total of 4,688 new cases were reported in the last 24 hours with 82 deaths, the highest single-day rise ever, landing the country at the 17th spot in terms of the coronavirus cases,.

The country has also enhanced its daily testing capacity to over 20,000 and has conducted 615,511 tests.

The spike in COVID-19 cases started immediately after the government eased the lockdown restrictions in mid-May, contrary to the recommendation of doctors and experts who advocated their extension to stem the spread of the virus.

Previously, the government had decided to shut down public places, the transport sector and markets on March 23. Now, the authorities are blaming the people for not adhering to social distancing regulations and other precautions, pointing out that negligence has led to the growing outbreak.

“We have witnessed a spike in the cases after people violated the government’s prescribed precautionary measures,” Dr. Zaeem Zia, district health officer in Islamabad, told Arab News.

The country’s federal capital has reported 3,544 positive coronavirus cases with 38 deaths and 5,680 tests so far.

“We are diligently working on contact tracing and surveillance in the high-risk population areas to contain the virus,” Zia said. “We are also ensuring a smart lockdown in the areas where COVID-19 cases are reported to prevent its further spread.”

The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has blamed the government for the surge in the cases due to its “noncoherent and confusing policy” to deal with the disease.

“The government has failed to adopt a uniform policy on dealing with the virus from day one, so the result is quite obvious,” Dr. Qaisar Sajjad, PMA secretary general, told Arab News.

He warned that the country’s health facilities had reached the brink of collapse with the sharp growth in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. “If the rising trend of the coronavirus cases is not contained or reversed, the health facilities may crumble in the coming days,” he said.

The PMA is also concerned by the increasing number of infections of doctors and paramedics. At least 30 health care practitioners — including 26 doctors and four nurses — have died due to the virus, while more than 2,100 have been infected so far, according to the PMA.

“Many private and public hospitals have already started refusing to admit coronavirus patients with ventilators and beds getting short in the medical facilities,” Sajjad said, urging the government to quell propaganda on social media that “coronavirus does not exist in Pakistan.”

There are 746 hospitals with COVID-19 facilities and 4,918 patients have been admitted across the country.

“We have been further extending our health facilities to deal with the pressure,” the Shah of the health ministry said. “Our hospitals are fully equipped and coping with the need.”

Most licenses valid for Pakistan pilots working abroad: Regulator

Updated 1 min ago

Most licenses valid for Pakistan pilots working abroad: Regulator

KARACHI: Pakistani authorities said Thursday they had confirmed the credentials of almost all Pakistani pilots working for foreign airlines, as the country battles a scandal over aviator licenses.
Airlines in 10 countries had demanded proof of valid flying licenses for their Pakistani pilots after it emerged about a third of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) aviators were holding “bogus or suspicious” licenses.
In all, the foreign airlines asked for proof of 176 Pakistani pilot licenses.
Of these, 166 “have been validated as genuine and certified by the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) Pakistan as having no anomaly,” the agency said in a statement.
The “process for the remaining 10 shall be concluded by next week,” it added.
Pakistan’s aviation minister sent shockwaves through the industry last month by revealing that some 260 pilots had dubious licenses.
About 150 worked for state-owned PIA — almost one-third of the airline’s staff of 434 pilots.
The announcement came a month after a PIA plane crashed into houses in Karachi, killing 98 people.
Investigators have largely blamed the crash on the pilots, though both had valid licenses.
The 10 airlines asking for proof of valid Pakistani pilots’ licenses were from Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Turkey, Malaysia, Vietnam and Hong Kong, according to the CAA.