Hospitals in Pakistan’s largest metropolis Karachi reaching capacity as Covid’s Delta variant spreads

The spread of the coronavirus Delta variant is reaching alarming levels in Pakistan’s largest city Karachi amidst the Eid-ul Azha festival with public and some private sector hospitals reaching capacity and starting to refuse patients, according to medical officials

Jul 21, 2021
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Hospitals in Pakistan’s largest metropolis

The spread of the coronavirus Delta variant is reaching alarming levels in Pakistan’s largest city Karachi amidst the Eid-ul Azha festival with public and some private sector hospitals reaching capacity and starting to refuse patients, according to medical officials.

Eid-ul Azha, also called Bakri Eid, is being celebrated across South Asia Wednesday. The government of Sindh province – of which Karachi is the capital - said the Covid-19 situation in the city is becoming serious, and warned people that ignoring precautionary measures during the three-day Eid holiday could make matters worse.

The coronavirus positivity rate in the country’s commercial capital has increased to 25.7 percent, nearly five times the national rate of 5.25 percent, according to figures given on Monday.

"Government hospitals have reached saturation point, something not witnessed during previous waves, and even some private hospitals are refusing patients," said Dr. Qaiser Sajjad, secretary-general of the Pakistan Medical Association.

The Delta variant could spread during the holiday as people travel from cities like Karachi to their home towns in Pakistan, which has so far recorded almost a million Covid cases with nearly 23,000 deaths.

According to the Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences at the University of Karachi, there is a 92.2 percent prevalence of the Delta variant in the city.

Dr. Seemin Jamali, executive director of Jinnah Hospital, Karachi's biggest, said 77 out of its 90 coronavirus beds were occupied. The officials were planning to add more beds to tackle the situation.

"We did not face such a capacity situation during previous waves," Jamali said. "The situation is getting pretty bad."

The Eid holiday and upcoming elections in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir on July 25 could prove to be super spreader events in the country, as the ruling parties and the opposition are busy holding big public gatherings, the two doctors warned.

Earlier, Pakistan’s leading media outlet Dawn quoted unnamed sources as saying the health facilities where Covid-19 beds were now largely occupied included the Sindh Institute of Infectious Diseases — a key government facility providing quality free-of-cost treatment to coronavirus patients — Ojha campus of Dow University of Health Sciences, Qatar General Hospital, Civil Hospital Karachi, Lyari General Hospital, Indus Hospital and the 140-bed facility set up at Expo Centre.

Associate Professor at the Jamilur Rahman Centre for Genomics Research in Karachi University Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed Khan regretted people were not taking the Delta variant seriously.

"They are thinking that the fourth coronavirus wave won't affect them as has happened during the past Covid-19 episodes. But, unfortunately, this might not be the case this time," he said, calling for strict enforcement of SOPs.

Last week, Pakistan’s Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, Asad Umar, said hospitals were seeing a rapid build-up in the influx of Covid patients. He had earlier warned of a fourth wave if precautionary measures were not followed.

First identified in India in March, the Delta variant has spread to more than 90 countries and is also the most dominant variant in India, the United Kingdom, Russia, Israel, Singapore and more than a dozen other countries.

The variant, scientists say, has features that allow it to evade some of the body’s immune system defenses. Plus, it has the highest transmissibility of any variant so far, a dangerous combination.

(SAM)

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