KARACHI: Expressing the fear that relaxing the lockdown would lead to a steep surge in the number of coronavirus cases, members of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), Pakistan Islamic Medical Association and Pakistan Chest Society urged the government to extend the lockdown, during a press conference on Saturday.
“The PMA and other health bodies have been calling for a strict lockdown from day one, as well as to educate people on the pandemic and raise awareness about precautionary measures to curb the spread of the virus,” said PMA general secretary Dr Qaisar Sajjad.
He was backed by Dr Ikram Ahmed Tunio of the PMA, who warned, “Easing the lockdown will land us in a dangerous situation.”
Demanding that the lockdown be extended for a few more weeks, until the spread of the virus slowed down, the doctors pointed out that even after the restrictions were relaxed, it was incumbent upon the government to ensure that all citizens followed the necessary standard operating procedures (SOPs).
Criticising the government for putting the responsibility on the public, Dr Sajjad said would be difficult for people to follow the SOPs. “The government will have to discipline the population,” said Dr Sajjad.
According to the doctors, if the pandemic escalates, it is likely that the healthcare system will collapse under the increasing pressure.
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“At the moment, there are just 63 beds dedicated for coronavirus patients in Karachi’s five public hospitals and though the 1,200-bed isolation facility at the Expo Centre is a large one, it only delivers primary treatment,” noted Dr Sajjad, adding that situation would not be too different in other cities, if not worse.
“We fear that relaxing the lockdown, in the light of the low literacy rate and obstinate behaviour of citizens, will open a floodgate of Covid-19 patients in the country,” he remarked, stressing, “We must prepare ourselves for the worst.”
Dr Sohail Akhtar, a chest specialist who also spoke on the occasion, complained that the government had not been following Covid-19 burial SOPs as advised by doctors, “which creates panic among the public.”
Besides, the doctors demanded that the government set up a helpline for ambulance services so that they could be guided where to shift the patient, introduce a relief package for the bereaved families of doctors who died battling Covid-19 on the frontlines and make the screening of health workers mandatory so that they could be protected against the virus.