Political activity, PSL to blame for rising Covid cases: minister – newspaper

• dr Javed Akram also links more infections to pandemic fatigue and a decline in vaccine effectiveness
• 109 people fall ill with Covid over 24 hours; positivity stays above 2pc

ISLAMABAD: As the rising number of Covid-19 cases has prompted the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) to recommend mask-wearing in crowded places, the Punjab Minister of Health has revived the political activities, particularly in Lahore, the Pakistan Super, blamed for the increase League (PSL) and other cultural activities.

Speaking to Dawn, Dr. Javed Akram also notes that pandemic fatigue — an expected and natural response to an ongoing public health crisis — and variations in the coronavirus are also responsible for more cases, as the effectiveness of current vaccines has fallen to about 60 percent from 90 percent so far.

Data released by the NCOC on Saturday morning showed 109 people had been infected with the coronavirus and national positivity was 2.05 percent over the past 24 hours. 14 patients were in critical condition.

Earlier this week, the center recommended wearing masks in crowded and tightly closed places and in health facilities. The guidelines have been issued for a period up to April 30 and take into account the current Covid-19 trend in the country.

dr Akram told Dawn that the Omicron variant of Covid-19 has changed, transforming into XBB 1.5, BQ 1.1 and BQ 1, leading to a spike in cases around the world.

“Also, we are still using the same vaccine that was made against the original virus. Over time, the virus has changed and the vaccine is now only 60 percent effective. Pfizer and Moderna have introduced bivalent vaccines, but they are not available in Pakistan,” he said.

“Most people were vaccinated over six months ago, so their immunity levels have also dropped. The nation is also facing pandemic fatigue due to which it is not taking precautionary measures,” he said.

dr Akram suggested that citizens should wear masks and try to avoid crowded places.

“Unfortunately, political activities, particularly in Lahore, have also contributed to Covid-19 cases. On the other hand, the PSL and other social gatherings are other reasons for the spread of the virus,” he said.

He said current vaccines are less effective against new variants of the virus, but whether or not the virus’ virulence has increased has not been confirmed.

Besides, said Dr. Akram, several people in Pakistan suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure, making them more susceptible to the virus. “I would suggest that people get vaccinated if they haven’t had a booster or a vaccine in the past six months,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 19, 2023

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