ISLAMABAD            -      Despite recent decline in COVID-19 cases and fall in the fatality rate in Pakistan, health experts on Thursday viewed that situation would remain ‘serious’ until the last patient was recovered and the vaccine was invented. 

Scientists and senior health officials also disqualified the argument of ‘herd immunity development’ in the country as the required percentage of the population for the ‘herd immunity’ has still not been exposed to the virus. 

Health experts viewed that it is premature to determine factors behind decline of cases in absence of advance molecular research on mutation of the virus in Pakistan. However, according to them possible reasons could be the local environment, polio vaccination, hot weather, average age of population, implementation on social distancing and lockdowns. 

Meanwhile, the scientists also agreed that the second wave will take two to three weeks to emerge and possibly a third wave will also rise in the month of November or December.  

Chairman National Task Force (NTF) on COVID-19 in Science and Technology Dr. Atta-ur-Rehman talking to The Nation said that Jameel-ur-Rehman Center for Genomics Research (JCGR) Karachi was conducting research on COVID-19 in Pakistan and according to it the virus was changing its mutation here.

“The virus cannot be eliminated completely,” he said.

Dr. Atta-ur-Rehman said the second wave would come and possibly it would be after 02 to 03 weeks of Eid-ul-Azha and then Muharram as people socially interact on these occasions. 

He ruled out the theory of development of ‘herd immunity’ in public saying that for the herd immunity 70% to 80% population needs to be infected with the virus, while in Pakistan much lower numbers of people were infected. 

He said factors behind decline in COVID-19 cases and fatality rate were multiple, including the average age of population which is 22 years, while people with 65 years age are 04% of the population.

Dr. Atta-ur-Rehman said that natural environment, timely implementation on complete lockdown and later policy of smart lockdown in the infected areas also contributed in decreasing the number of cases. 

“Single infected individual can be the source of the virus spread,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Coordination on National Emergency and Operations Center (NEOC) Dr. Rana Muhammad Safdar said that effective risk communication and polio vaccination of public resulted in protection of the immunity system here. 

“Pakistan and Afghanistan both are polio affected countries and the virus didn’t damage the population severely in these countries like it did in the countries where polio is eliminated,” he said. 

Dr. Rana Safdar said the second wave would ‘definitely’ come after completion of 14 days of Eid and Muharram, but it would not be biologically aggressive. He said a 3rd wave would also emerge in November/December.

About ‘herd immunity’ he said “we are far away from that as we didn’t have that exposure with the virus”. 

He said the NEOC surveillance system developed in 2015 effectively contributed in tracing and controlling the virus spread along with the increased temperature in which the virus cannot travel with full strength. 

Virologist Dr. Muhammad Mukhtar said that diseases had different patterns and virus likely had mutated here or the environment was not suitable for it, but it needed to be scientifically determined by advance level molecular research in the country. 

“We should take it serious till the last person is recovered or the vaccine is invented,” said Dr. Muhammad Mukthar. 

Director General (DG) Health Services MCI Dr. Hassan Orooj said that partial/high risk lockdowns, virus mutation and high temperature remained effective in controlling the virus spread. 

According to the National Command and Operations Center (NCOC) 21 deaths occurred, 727 COVID-19 cases were registered and 15001 tests were conducted.