COVID-19 has appeared as a worldly pandemic and has affected the world population on a large scale. Coronavirus is not a biological weapon, for a variety of reasons both scientific and practical. In Pakistan, the patient outcome has raised since February 2020 and several factors are contributing to it.
Advanced Resources of International Travelling
With the advancement and ease in international travelling as masses can move from place to place in no time for the trade, tourism or business. The carriers of the virus also took the disease to other countries. Coronavirus outbreak started in Wuhan city of China in December 2019; by June 2020, it has spread in 213 countries and territories of the world including Pakistan.
Pilgrims Returning to Pakistan
Iran collects a major share of its revenue from religious travelling that is the reason Iran did not close borders for the pilgrims. Due to lack of testing facilities in Iran, no Corona cases were reported until early February. That is the reason the pilgrims returning from Iran at Taftan border were sent to their home cities without testing. However, on 26th February 2 patients of Corona were reported in Karachi, both of them had returned from Iran. At the point, the government started taking precautionary measures at Taftan border and 2000 people returning at the border were kept in Quarantine centres. However, the pilgrims returning earlier had become a hotspot of Coronavirus in their cities. By 24th March, Pakistan had 990 cases in total and 60% were the people who travelled to Iran. By June 12, 2020, there are over 126,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Pakistan.
The best way to prevent the Novel Coronavirus that has killed more than 360000 people by today is to practice hygienic measures, which include; Washing hands with soap often, covering face and nose while sneezing and not touching one’s face or eyes. According to the CDC, it may be possible that the virus also spread by contaminated surfaces, doorknobs, handles, light switches, tables, electronics and other everyday use surfaces. So these surfaces should be disinfected to minimize the spread of the virus. However, the public does not seem to follow good hygienic measures. People spit at floors at public places. Masses do not observe cough etiquette.
Moreover, the people living in slum areas share public toilets, in these circumstances the chances of spread of disease are manifold.
Ease in Lockdown
The lockdown implemented on the orders of Prime minister Imran Khan has contributed towards a reduction in cases of COVID-19. However, the ease in lockdown has now contributed towards rising daily cases of Coronavirus. Literacy rate in Pakistan is low and people are ignorant of the havoc. Due to poverty, people are forced to move out of their houses for making their both ends meet and the social contact leads to the spread of this pandemic. Due to the slight ease in lockdown, the public transport and markets have opened and implementation of SOP is given by the government has been reduced a lot.
In Pakistan, where around 30% of the population live in grave poverty avoiding catching coronavirus is not the only thing that comes to people’s mind. Starving of hunger often comes first. Such people cannot survive on their own in the lockdown and the government resources are insufficient to provide everyone in the country. Therefore, the folks need to come out and make their living.
Government has started the Ehsaas Program which purposes of providing financial aid to millions of deserving people all over the country. Many NGO’s are working on their own to provide food and other necessities at the doors of houses of the poverty-stricken.
Another big reason for the widespread of COVID-19 is the discrepancies arising in public due to religious practices and rituals and how they need to be performed. Religious leaders condemn the closure of mosques; people are urged to offer Salah in Jamaat regardless of the dangers of social contact. People started offering prayers on roads in front of mosques. People do not refrain from shaking hands, as it is Sunnah (reference to Islamic code and Conduct).
In mid-March a Tablighi Jamaat congregation at Raiwind, Lahore with over 100000 people coming from all around the world was the Super spreader of Coronavirus with over 539 cases linked to the event reported in country. Even the people travelling from the Ijtemah to other countries served as a hotspot of COVID-19, South Africa, Gaza, Nigeria, Kyrgyzstan reported patients who attended the Tablighi Jamat.
Unless other Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan has not been successful in imposing a complete ban on mosques sermons and religious rituals due to fear of retaliation from Islamist groups.
Lack of Awareness and Negligence Among People
Another reason for such an epic rise in the number of patients is ignorance and highly decreased awareness which is due to illiteracy and poverty. People are highly ignorant of the fact that this situation has become a global crisis. People are keener on shopping than their safety. The markets were seen flooded with people on Eid occasion. No masks, no safety measures, no social distancing. People are visiting their relatives and friends and enjoying vacations. Coronavirus, for now, is a meme material for the masses.
Although people are trying to help the needy by providing monetary assistance they are not taking care of social distancing and even this act of charity is becoming the cause of the spread of disease.
Raising awareness among the public by Television commercials and social media campaigning can minimize the spread of this life-taking disease. Muslim Aid Pakistan in collaboration with UNICEF and Ministry of Climate Change has started #WashHrandsBeatCorona campaign. Hundreds of locals were reached and proper orientation on personal hygiene was given.
Currency Notes, Newspaper
The possible spread of Corona Virus by currency notes has revived the concerns around handling cash during the epidemic. While there is no conclusive, study that links the spread of a current strain of Coronavirus to the contaminated currency notes however, World Health Organisation has advised taking measures to maintain proper hygiene post handling notes. COVID-19 is the latest string in The Coronavirus family and World Health Organisation has stated that it is not certain for how much period the virus stays at surfaces. However, a study suggests that Coronaviruses including COVID-19 can survive on surfaces for a few hours to several days. This varies depending upon the type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment.
To limit the fallout of the Coronavirus pandemic people should be encouraged to use the digital payment methods from their homes by online portals.
Health Care Centers Have Poor Facilities
Lack of facilities and appalling conditions at the quarantine centres where thousands of people were living no isolation between the infected and non-infected persons ended up with infecting the whole lot. Similarly, people going to hospital OPDs for minor inconveniences can carry the germs of Corona home. As there are not enough facilities neither to ensure by testing who are the infected ones nor to isolate them properly from other healthy people.
Many people diagnosed with COVID-19 come to hospitals and there are not sufficient isolation wards. Doctors, nurses and other paramedics do not have PPEs, which results in doctors themselves infected. The number of COVID-19 patients among the doctor community is raising day by day. These front liners are the real heroes who have very fewer facilities but they are still up for their contributions.
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Post by: Noor Fatima Talat and Rimsha BabarNoor Fatima and Rimsha are third-year students at King Edward Medical University, Lahore.