Zakaria Virk, Editor
Pakistan’s COVID-19 victory has been described as “a bit of a mystery” as the country witnessed a perplexing yet steady drop in the virus cases. In mid-June there was peak of around 6,800 cases in a day to a few hundred in September. With the spread of the virus now slowing down and demand for hospital care and testing dwindling, the country lifted most restrictions by mid-August as the pressure eased on the healthcare system.
It was estimated that 1.2 million people were infected but as it turned out it was’t as bad. The question is how Pakistan, a country of 220 million with 307,000 infections did, 6,432 deaths win the battle against this scourge.
One of the reasons in the decrease in cases included rise in temperature, the increase in the index of ultraviolet rays in the sunlight, change in wind speed and pressure across the country. Pakistan government’s coordinated and coherent strategy and data-driven decision making along with contact tracing and smart lockdowns were notable factors. However the biological and environmental factors remain unknown.
Some people say nobody knows this answer exactly, may be it was a combination of two factors, the partial lockdown imposed by the government and the precautions observed by the people on their own. One possible reason cited is country’s significant young population (median age is 22) as the youth remained relatively less affected by the virus.
Some experts indicate factors such as strong immunity against the contagious diseases could be the two most reasonable scientific causes behind the remarkably lower COVID-19 fatality rate in Pakistan as compared to USA with over 200,000 deaths. Youth especially those up to age 23, which represent an enormous ratio of Pakistani population, had unknowingly developed anti-bodies against the viral disease. Diseases such as hepatitis, dengue fever, cholera, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, malaria, dysentery, polio which are common in the country. Approximately 10 million people are infected by HCV virus alone.
Under the leadership of Asad Umar Pakistan managed to drastically reduce infection with strict measures mainly improved testing and smart lockdown. By September 8, a total of 285,171 tests were conducted which means 28 per cent people or one of every five Islamabad residents were tested for the virus. More than 48,000 houses were quarantined and 40,000 contacts traced.
Some of the key measures that Islamabad adopted to contain the spread are as follows: 1. Rapid response teams to track and trace patients and enforce home quarantine guidelines. 2. Strict lockdown in selected areas for a limited time where people are not allowed out of their homes except to buy essentials. 3. DHO team and volunteers ensuring the provision of food, medical and critical supplies such as oxygen cylinder in areas under lockdown. 4. Ensuring implementation of health guidelines such as wearing masks and fining individuals and businesses that violate the orders. 6. Shutting down shops, business, restaurants where a few cases are reported.