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Who’s responsible for non-compliance with Covid SOPs in Sindh?

File photo.

The number of Covid-positive cases reported over a 24-hour period in Sindh has been steadily increasing with every passing day. From 247 cases reported on March 31 to 1,178 cases reported on May 1, the Covid-19 positivity has increased to almost five times in the province.

Unfortunately, however, the relevant authorities seem to be the least bothered about ensuring actual compliance with the standard operating procedures (SOPs) devised to curb the spread of the viral disease, which is evident from the Eidul Fitr shopping spree under way in Karachi these days.

Even a brief survey of different shopping centres on Tariq Road, of the Zainab Market and of various shopping streets in the city is enough to show you hundreds of thousands of people, along with their children, shopping for Eid.

And all this shopping is being done without taking into consideration the persistent threat of the coronavirus, which has not only been wreaking havoc across Pakistan but has also been moving closer to bringing our next-door neighbour India to its knees.

Rising hospitalisation

“Within a couple of weeks, hospitalisation of patients with Covid-19 has doubled in Karachi,” Dr Munir Sadiq, who is associated with the Dr Ruth KM Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi, told The News.

“And this time, more people are on high- and low-flow oxygen as compared to the previous two waves. Hospitalisation is continuously on the rise, which indicates that people are the least bothered about the infectious disease.”

Dr Sadiq said that Covid-19 positivity has increased almost five times over a month, and now “escape variants” or “variants of concern” are also being detected in Karachi.

These Brazilian, South African and Indian variants of SARS-CoV-2 are not only more virulent and infectious but also have the ability to cause infection despite vaccination, he added.

“We have seen cases of reinfection among people who were not only vaccinated but had also been infected with the coronavirus once or even twice. We don’t know about the severity of the disease among these people, but this is quite an alarming situation.”

He said police officials are supposed to implement the SOPs, but most of them do not bother to wear masks themselves. He also accused them of protecting restaurants, shopping centres and other businesses in many low- and middle-income areas so they may continue operating in violation of the SOPs.

Officials of the Sindh Health Department have confirmed that at least four hospitals in Karachi — the Infectious Diseases Hospital at Nipa and three leading private hospitals — lack vacant ICU beds with ventilators right now. Rise in the number of patients will sharply increase the occupancy of ICU beds in the coming days, they warned.

No concrete measures

Commenting on the third wave of Covid-19 in Sindh, health expert Dr Khurram Nizami said that on the one hand the provincial government has reopened the Expo Centre in view of the growing incidence of infection cases.

But on the other hand, he added, no concrete measures are being taken to prevent the movement of people who are freely mingling and interacting without complying with any of the SOPs.

“Compared to Lahore and other cities of Punjab, compliance with the mandatory rule of wearing masks in public places is negligible in Karachi and other cities of Sindh. Similarly, people are freely visiting shopping centres and attending Iftar parties and religious ceremonies without taking care of themselves and others.”

According to the National Command & Operation Centre, hospitalisation of critically-sick patients is constantly on the rise in the country, and out of around 11,000 admitted patients, 5,360 are either on high- or low-flow oxygen or on ventilators.

Experts have been criticising the Sindh government for failing to ensure compliance with the SOPs, especially preventing crowding in restaurants, shopping malls, markets and other bazaars, as well as for allowing careless behaviour at places of worship.

They have warned that even though there may be a possibility of the Covid-19 curve flattening in other parts of the country, hospitalisation of patients can reach alarming proportions in Sindh, especially in Karachi.

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