Can Pakistan Effectively Respond to Coronavirus Pandemic?
|Coronavirus Global Pandemic|
Is Pakistan Ready?
Pakistan is among only 6 countries in the world that have taken the steps they need to evaluate their ability to withstand a global pandemic, according to a 2017 report sponsored by the World Bank. The 6 countries named in the report are: Eritrea, Finland, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania and the United States.
|Covid19 Coronavirus. Source: US CDC|
Pakistan is ramping up coronavirus testing and setting up isolation wards at many hospitals in Sindh and across the country. More testing accounts for the spike in confirmed cases. The best known treatment for the severely ill is Resochin, the anti-malarial antiviral made by Bayer Pakistan.
In response to a recent request by Pakistan's Express Tribune newspaper staff, World Health Organization Executive Director Dr. Michael J. Ryan said Pakistan has great capacity in public health but he also talked of challenges posed by the Coronavirus pandemic. “Pakistan has a highly mobile population with mega cities and undeserved people,” he said. “So there is a great challenge facing Pakistan. But Pakistan has also demonstrated time and again with dengue, polio and other diseases how all of the government and society’s approaches can be made to work.”
Dr. Palitha Gunarathna Mahipala, World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Pakistan, also lauded Pakistan's response to Covid19 pandemic, according to The News. He said, “Pakistan has timely come up with one of the world’s best National Response Program against COVID-19 and it is being implemented very effectively. Authorities are doing their job and now it is the responsibility of the people to follow the instructions and take preventive and precautionary measures to avoid contracting the viral disease.”
The World Bank report titled "From Panic and Neglect to Investing in Health Security: Financing Pandemic Preparedness at a National Level" was written by experts from the World Bank, the World Health Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the African and Asian development banks, and finance officials from various governments. The report included estimates of the economic damage various epidemics had done. For example, the viral pneumonia SARS — which ultimately killed only 774 people — shrank China’s gross domestic product by 0.5 percent in 2003. The report also broke down costs on a per capita basis. A major flu pandemic, for example, would cost Afghanistan only $12 per citizen, India $31, Pakistan $28 and the United States $248.
The current hotspot is in southern Sindh province where the provincial government is taking the lead in fighting its spread by shutting schools, closing restaurants and shopping malls and banning large gatherings. The federal government has closed Pakistan's western border with Iran where the coronavirus pandemic is raging. Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority has started screening all incoming passengers and stopped flights to and from several countries hit by the pandemic.
Italian experience with coronavirus has shown that even a well-developed public health system in a rich European country can be overwhelmed by rapidly growing pandemic such as Covid19. The best way to handle the situation is to cut the infection rate by keeping people about 6 feet apart. This is being called "social distancing".
|Social Distancing to Limit Infection Rates|
Based on what the United States has learned from what is happening in Italy, major cities and states in America are taking steps to reduce large gatherings of people. Offices, schools, restaurants and shopping centers are closed with shelter-in-place orders in Silicon Valley and the larger 6-county San Francisco Bay Area.
Herd immunity develops when a large percentage of population is infected or vaccinated. Dr. Arindam Basu, Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Environmental Health at University of Canterbury, has recently written an article in The Conversation arguing that it is "unethical and potentially dangerous" to wait for herd immunity to develop in the absence of a vaccine. It could result in hundreds of thousands or even millions of deaths among the most vulnerable segments of the population such as the elderly and the immune-compromised.
Pakistan's Assistance to China:
Chinese President Xi Jinping has thanked Pakistan for its support during coronabirus outbreak in his country. "China is deeply grateful for Pakistan's support. Facts have proved once again that China and Pakistan are true friends who share weal and woe and good brothers who share each other's joys and sorrows. The special friendship is a historical choice, and is deeply rooted in the hearts of the two peoples," said Xi.
|Resochin (Chloroquine) Produced by Bayer Pakistan|
At the peak of the outbreak in February, Bayer Pakistan exported to China 300,000 tablets of Resochin (Chloroquine) that proved effective in treating coronavirus infections and saving lives in Wuhan. Resochin is an antiviral drug used for treating malaria. Chloroquine is manufactured by not just Bayer but several other drug companies as well. China and many other countries discontinued its production years ago. Several Pakistani pharmaceutical companies also manufacture HydroxyChloroquine which has lower toxicity and fewer side effects. The United Kingdom has banned hoarding and export of both of these drugs. In addition, Pakistan donated 7,000 surgical masks to China at the peak of the coronavirus outbreak. A recent paper titled "An Effective Treatment for Coronavirus (COVID-19)" by James M. Todaro, MD and and Gregory J. Rigano, Esq. has published data showing the efficacy of familiar anti-malaria drugs Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine for treatment of and as prophylactic against COVID-19.
|In Vitro Efficacy of Chloroquine(CQ) vs Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) Against COVID19. Source: Nature|
Recently, Chinese research (reported in Clinical Trials Arena) reported that “data from the drug’s [chloroquine] studies showed ‘certain curative effect’ with ‘fairly good efficacy’ … patients treated with chloroquine demonstrated a better drop in fever, improvement of lung CT images, and required a shorter time to recover compared to parallel groups. The percentage of patients with negative viral nucleic acid tests was also higher with the anti-malarial drug… Chloroquine has so far shown no obvious serious adverse reactions in more than 100 participants in the trials… Chloroquine was selected after several screening rounds of thousands of existing drugs. Chloroquine is undergoing further trials in more than ten hospitals in Beijing, Guangdong province and Hunnan province.”
A small French study found only 25% of COVID19 patients who took it for 6 days still had the virus while 90% of those who had not taken it still had Covid-19.
|HCQ (Hydroxychloroquine) Manufactured by Getz Pakistan|
Economic Impact of Coronavirus Pandemic:
Service sector accounts for 50% of the world GDP and 54% of Pakistan's GDP. Social distancing will significantly impact the services, particularly retail, restaurants, travel, transport and education sectors. Imran Khan has expressed fear that the pandemic will devastate the economies of developing countries.
“My worry is poverty and hunger," Khan said. "The world community has to think of some sort of a debt write-off for countries like us, which are very vulnerable, at least that will help us in coping with (the coronavirus).”
Pakistan is among only six countries in the world that have taken the steps they need to evaluate their ability to withstand a global pandemic, according to a 2017 report sponsored by the World Bank. The current hotspot is in southern Sindh province where the provincial government is taking the lead in fighting its spread by shutting schools, closing restaurants and shopping malls and banning large gatherings. The federal government has closed Pakistan's western border with Iran where the coronavirus pandemic is raging. Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority has started screening all incoming passengers and stopped flights to and from several countries hit by the pandemic. The best known treatment for the severely ill is Resochin, the anti-malarial antiviral made by Bayer Pakistan. Dr. Michael Ryan and Dr. Palitha Gunarathna Mahipala of the World Health Organization (WHO) have talked of challenges Pakistan faces but also praised the steps it has taken to fight coronavirus pandemic.
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