KARACHI: The pandemic of coronavirus, standard operating procedures (SOPs) and precautions to prevent its dissemination and the Covid-19 vaccine were at the centre of Thursday’s media conference by former Health Prime Minister’s advisor Dr Zafar Mirza.
“Any conversation about wellbeing these days turns to learning about Covid-19. “We have been very fortunate here in Pakistan not to have experienced the kind of devastation that so many other nations have suffered,” he said at the event organised at the Karachi Press Club by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Science.
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We recognised the risks of the coronavirus in Pakistan early on. The first case here occurred on Feb 26, but since January we have been training for it. Then came the recommendation to enforce lockdowns or smart lockdowns at the March 14 meeting of the National Security Committee. Such lockdowns have undoubtedly had an effect on the regulation of the dissemination of the virus. The infection can be monitored even though the SOPs are detected by 20 percent of individuals at a high risk of contracting the coronavirus. And in the first wave, we were able to do it,” he added.
In view of the second phase of the pandemic, Dr. Mirza said that the government or the people did not take it as seriously as the first. The sort of determination we saw in the first wave is lacking in the second one. Despite large events being banned by the government,[they are] still happening all over. But we were expected to respond to it as we did in the first wave.
The new variant or strain is said to be 70 per cent more transmissible. So the disease can spread fast and would be difficult to control
And there is the UK Covid-19 version now that the second wave is easing a little bit. Now, there is a fear for it. Yeah, there are still emerging viruses and bacteria. In Covid-19, we have seen about 150 genetic modifications already. 70 per cent more [transmissible] are said to be the current variant or strain. Thus, the disease can spread rapidly and is difficult to manage. So you have to be careful not to be the catalyst for distributing it,’ he said.
Vaccine and precautions
He noted that the Covid-19 vaccine is not a substitute for precautions. “Precautions have their own meaning. Yeah, Pakistan is gaining access to the Multinational Vaccine Procurement Partnership. There are at least eight pharmaceutical firms in the process of making coronavirus vaccines, and the government of Pakistan is talking to several companies about buying them. But this will be administered to front-line health staff, followed by other health workers, before the Chinese vaccine is available.
He noted that the Covid-19 vaccine is not a substitute for precautions. “Precautions have their own meaning. Yeah, Pakistan is gaining access to the Multinational Vaccine Procurement Partnership. There are at least eight pharmaceutical firms in the process of making coronavirus vaccines, and the government of Pakistan is talking to several companies about buying them. But this will be administered to front-line health staff, followed by other health workers, before the Chinese vaccine is available. In the best-case situation, by the first quarter of 2021, just 20 per cent of the population of Pakistan will obtain it, he added.
In developed nations like ours, prominent persons are the first to get vaccinated. But soon it will not be open to the private sector. So you will not be able to, even though you do afford it. The nation, too, should be vigilant to send it to those in the priority line, and there should be no snatching,’ he said.
Finally, as a World Health Organisation (WHO) counsellor on universal public health in Pakistan, he expressed that the Government of Pakistan does not provide more than 30 per cent of the population with health services. “The situation will not improve until we involve the private sector in healthcare,” he said, adding that public-private collaborations are essential for universal health coverage.
The issue of the National Health Card is one of the steps being taken by the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab. This card was issued in Sindh to citizens in the district of Tharparkar. Health cards are also issued to disabled and transgender people on a priority basis,” he said.
He added that a significant body named the Global Health Financing Council was set up by the WHO to investigate why governments, especially in developed countries, are not investing on health. He said that it is now a proven reality that health is a positive driver and that investment in human health is important. He also said that health is actually not one of the basic rights found in the Constitution of Pakistan. “To incorporate the right to health into the Constitution, a constitutional amendment is required,” he said.