Islamabad, 30 April 2020: Leading physicians, along with representatives of the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA), Saturday expressed deep concern over relaxation of the lockdown at a time when it is most needed. They urged the government to revert to measures enforced in the initial days of the outbreak and to prevent all kinds of congregations, given the rapid increase in number of cases from 8,275 on April 20 to 11,155 on April 24.
Addressing a press conference here on Saturday, the speakers tabled a set of demands outlining measures that need to be taken by the government, public, religious scholars, business community, and philanthropists, to turn the tide against Covid-19.
The press conference was attended by Prof. Muhammad Iqbal Khan, Vice Chancellor of Shifa Tameer-e-Millat University; Dr. Iftikhar Burney, President of PIMA-Islamabad; Brig. (retd.) Asif Nawaz, President of PIMA-Rawalpindi; Prof. Muhammad Ijaz Khan, President of the Pakistan Society of Infectious Diseases; Dr. Saeedullah Shah, Consultant Cardiologist and ex-president of PIMA-Islamabad; and Dr. Fazle Rabbi, President of Young Doctors Association-Islamabad.
The physicians advised the government to consider strictest possible enforcement of the lockdown, urged the public to cooperate by keeping indoors, and advised the business community to bear the hardship for a few more weeks by closing departmental stores, shops, and shopping centers (except those providing basic necessities) and to explore alternative modes of business.
“Charitable organizations and NGO should take the lead in ensuring the provision of basic necessities, especially food, to those in need. Ramadan is a month of giving and ‘infaq.’ We are sure that by looking after each other, nobody will remain hungry,” the speakers stated. They urged religious scholars of all sects to understand that saving lives must take precedence over all other matters.
“You should endorse the need to keep common people away from aggregation in mosques. Even healthy and young visiting mosques can bring the virus home and infect the old and sick. Almost all Islamic countries have closed mosques. ‘Taraweeh’ can be offered at home,” they said, addressing religious scholars.
“We need the support of the government, scholars, business community, philanthropists, and public to fight this together,” the speakers said. They expressed that myths such as ‘it will not affect us,’ ‘we are the chosen ones,’ ‘our cases are not as severe’ have done a lot of damage already as the number of patients in the intensive care and isolation wards of hospitals is increasing rapidly, and in many places, is as high as over 80%. “The time is not far when we will have to refuse hospital admissions due to non-availability of beds, and will be forced to decide which patient to ventilate and which to let die,” they feared.
The physicians warned that the severity of Covid-19 spread is way beyond imagination. “More than 162 healthcare workers have tested positive for Covid-19 in the country so far, and many others have been side-lined because of quarantine. The rapid reduction in manpower needed to combat the storm will add on to the grave problem we are facing right now,” they flagged, adding “we are better off primarily because of the lockdown since early days, even though it could have been better.”
The speakers pointed out that Pakistan does not have the capacity to fight this disease. “The only way to save lives is to slowdown the number of cases by implementing social distancing and strict lockdown for the next few weeks,” they concluded.