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Friday Jun 05 2020
By
Reuters

COVID-19: WHO says disease has not ‘exploded’ in Pakistan

By
Reuters
Dr Mike Ryan. File photo

GENEVA: The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday said the number of COVID-19 cases in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh is increasing rapidly but the disease has not exploded in the region.

"In South Asia, not just in India, but in Bangladesh and... Pakistan and other countries of South Asia with large dense populations, the disease has not exploded, but there is always the risk of that happening," Dr Mike Ryan, WHO's top emergency expert, told a news conference.

Soumya Swaminathan, WHO's chief scientist, noting India has a population of 1.3 billion, said that the 200,000 reported cases, "look big but for a country of this size it's still modest".

WHO epidemiologist Dr Maria van Kerkhove said PCR tests can show a person with mild infection being positive for fragments of the virus 2-3 weeks after the onset of symptoms and those with severe cases "for much longer". "But we don’t know what that relates to in terms of infectiousness, if somebody can actually pass the virus," she said.

‘Cannot undergo another lockdown’

Addressing the members of Corona Tiger Force today, Prime Minister Imran Khan today said that Pakistan cannot afford another lockdown.

"This country cannot undergo another lockdown. That's why we need you to spread awareness," the premier said.

The prime minister said that owing to the epidemic, the country had already experienced a loss of approximately Rs800bn in revenue and hinted at an austere budget for the coming year where expenses "will have to be drastically reduced".

Over 90,000 cases

Pakistan has witnessed a steep rise in the coronavirus cases in the last few weeks since the lockdown restrictions were eased in the country last month.

As of now 91,171 cases has been detected with 1,898 fatalities.

A review of government data shows over 20,000 cases of the virus were identified in the three weeks before the lockdown was lifted, and more than double that figure were identified in the three weeks since.

To be sure, testing rates have also increased. But of those tested, the daily average of positive results climbed from on average 11.5% in the three weeks before the lockdown was lifted, to 15.4% on average in the subsequent three weeks. The ratio is around 23% this week, according to the data.

"Those numbers are concerning, since they do suggest there may still be widespread transmission in certain parts of the country," said Claire Standley, assistant research professor at the Department of International Health at Georgetown University.

Experts say measures that could curb cases – like limits on religious gatherings and crowded shopping areas and emphasising social distancing – should be reinstated and some doctors are raising the alarm.

But the government has insisted that the country can not afford another lockdown owing to the disastrous effects it has had on the economy.