The spread of the coronavirus Delta variant is reaching alarming levels in Karachi on the eve of the Eidul Azha holiday as public and some private sector hospitals are reaching capacity and have started refusing patients, medical officials said on Tuesday.
The Sindh government said on Monday that the Covid-19 situation in the city is becoming serious, and warned people that ignoring precautionary measures during the holiday could make matters worse.
During the past 24 hours, the coronavirus positivity rate in the Sindh capital increased to 25.7%, nearly five times the national rate of 5.25%.
Government hospitals have reached saturation point, something not witnessed during previous waves, and even some private hospitals are refusing patients, said Dr Qaiser Sajjad, secretary general of the Pakistan Medical Association.
“God have mercy on us, people are not taking this pandemic seriously. Such irresponsible behaviour on the Eid festival will make matters worse,” Sajjad told Reuters.
Covid-19 wards at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, the Sindh Infectious Disease Hospital and Research Centre (SIDHRC), Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital, the Indus Hospital, Lyari General Hospital and other health facilities, including the isolation ward at Expo Centre, have reached their capacity.
“All 140 beds are occupied. There isn’t space for even a single [new] patient, said SIDHRC Medical Superintendent Dr Wahid Rajput, speaking to The Express Tribune on Monday. All new patients are being referred to other government hospitals but the situation is dire there as well.
“Just spend Rs5 and wear a mask so we may curb the spread of the virus,” he pleaded. Those who are violating the coronavirus-mandated standard operating procedures (SOPs) are creating an unfavourable situation for others as well, he added.
The Delta variant could spread during the holiday as people travel from cities like Karachi to their home towns.
According to the Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences at the University of Karachi, there is 92.2% prevalence of the Delta variant in the city.
Dr Seemin Jamali, executive director of the Jinnah Hospital, Karachi's biggest, told Reuters that 77 out of its 90 coronavirus beds were occupied and it was planned to add more.
“We did not face such a capacity situation during previous waves," Jamali said. "The situation is getting pretty bad."
The Eid holidays and upcoming elections in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on July 25 could prove to be super spreader events, as government and opposition are busy holding big public gatherings, the two doctors warned.
Last week, Pakistan’s planning minister, Asad Umar, said hospitals were seeing a rapid build-up in the influx of Covid patients. He had earlier warned of a fourth wave if precautionary measures were not followed.
Beds occupied, surgeries suspended
At JPMC, the city’s largest public hospital, all surgeries except emergency ones have been suspended for the past week. Out of the 90 beds in its Covid-19 ward, 80 are occupied and it is all hands on deck.
Some of the frontline workers at JPMC, including its top three nurses, a few of the doctors and other staffers have also contracted the virus though they have been inoculated.
“A new ward of 70-beds is being set up,” said JPMC Executive Director Dr Seemin Jamali. “Most patients coming to the hospital are in critical condition.”
The virus is spreading rapidly and the situation is critical, she told The Express Tribune. Most of the patients coming to JPMC have been sent by other hospitals, which could not accommodate them, she added.
In response to a question, Jamali said that thus far there is enough oxygen supply in major hospitals of the city. “[At JPMC] we have enough stock.”
Indus Hospital’s Dr Abdul Bari reported a similar situation. “There is no place in the hospital. But we are arranging extra beds to accommodate more patients.”
The past week has been critical, said Dr Bari, adding that the jump in positive cases was sudden. Over a dozen Covid patients were being shifted from the Indus Hospital to other facilities as the hospital could not cater to them, he said. “This is possibly because of the spread of the Delta variant.”
The situation will not stabilise till citizens voluntarily get vaccinated, added Dr Bari. “The vaccine is free. I advise all to get inoculated immediately to curb the spread of the virus.”
(With input from News Desk)
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