Covid-19 report – 09 May 2022


A WORLD Health Organisation report has estimated that the actual number of deaths from Covid-19 across the world may be at least three times higher than what has officially been reported. The report has identified India as one country where the death toll may be as high as 5m instead of the half a million acknowledged by New Delhi. For Pakistan too, the WHO report says the actual number of deaths may be eight times higher than what the official data suggests. Both India and Pakistan have disputed the figures presented in the report, and for now, it is hard to say whether the report is closer to reality or the governments` version.

However, Pakistan`s former health adviser Dr Faisal Sultan has made it clear through an official statement that while there could be some marginal discrepancy in the country`s death toll estimate, it cannot be as high as what the WHO report is suggesting.

This makes sense. Dr Faisal Sultan has argued that the data from hospitals and graveyards does not show that the official figures can be so inaccurate. There is no denying that the response of the government of Pakistan to the Covid-19 challenge was effective.

The formation of the NCOC as the hub for coordinating all Covid-19 responses was an excellent initiative and it paid dividends both in terms of efficiency and outcomes. The success of the NCOC was acknowledged by the international community and it would not be wrong to say that it played a central role in ensuring that Pakistan was saved from the ravages of the pandemic that countries like India endured. That said, it may be opportune to take stock of the weaknesses in our health system, and in the overall response to the pandemic, that have been identified in the last two years. This would enable us to take corrective measures and be better prepared for such an eventuality in the future.

One aspect that needs greater examination is the authenticity of the data and the difficulties in collecting it. The WHO report may not reflect the reality, but it does remind us that we need to invest greater efforts in institutionalising the response mechanism that the NCOC was able to cobble together in an emergency situation. The health ministry, therefore, needs to undertake a comprehensive exercise to identify all the weak points and draw up plans to fix them. The NCOC blueprint already provides a starting point for such an initiative. It needs to be expanded upon and the government should prioritise it before we are once again caught unawares. The country`s health sector benefited from various upgrades during the Covid 19 response but those upgrades now need to be formalised through the injection of resources and system improvements. The good work of the NCOC must not be allowed to go to waste.

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