25,000 virus deaths can be prevented in Pakistan if face masks made mandatory, claim US experts - GulfToday

25,000 virus deaths can be prevented in Pakistan if face masks are made mandatory, claim US experts


The photo has been used for illustrative purpose.

Tariq Butt, Correspondent 

A reputed public health institute in the United States has claimed that based on their modelling and projections, Pakistan can avoid around 25,000 deaths due to COVID-19 by Oct.1, 2020, if it convinces all its citizens to wear masks while going out in the public.

According to the study, COVID-19 cases and deaths are constantly on the rise in Pakistan at the moment, however, the number of casualties in the future can be significantly decreased if the people of Pakistan adopt precautionary measures.

"Our modeling shows that if all Pakistanis wear a mask when going out, as many as 25,000 lives could be saved. I encourage all to wear a mask to save lives and protect the economy,” said Dr Ali Mokdad, a senior faculty member and chief strategy officer for population health at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), University of Washington said.

ImranVirusMeetingPrime Minister Imran Khan attends an event in Islamabad.

The IHME, University of Washington, has a long history of collaboration with the Aga Khan University (AKU) Karachi as well as the government of Pakistan. Several Pakistani health officials, including epidemiologists and public health experts, have been trained at the reputed institute in Washington.

Dr Mokdad, who has also served in Pakistan, said that in its first projections for Pakistan, the IHME had forecast that a total of 42,188 people would die of the contagious disease in the country until Oct.1.

"Pakistan is on a concerning trajectory,” the expert said. "As per our modelling and estimates, there would be over 42,000 deaths in Pakistan if protective measures are not taken. But a tight lockdown which the country adopted at the start of the outbreak is also not the solution. The only option left for Pakistanis is the behaviour change, which includes mandatory use of masks while coming out of their homes, practising social distancing and frequent hand washing,” he added.

PakistanVirusMaskA health worker checks the body temperature of a woman at a mobile screening unit in Lahore. AP

Urging the Pakistani authorities to promote the use of all kinds and types of masks among the people, he said if a person could not afford an N-95 or surgical mask, he or she should use hand-made cloth masks, adding that the objective was to cover the face to prevent the wearer and others from contracting the disease which is spread through air-borne droplets and aerosols.

"As it is an Islamic country, I have observed women in Pakistan covering their faces with pieces of cloths and this can prevent them also from spreading and contracting the illness.

Otherwise, everybody should wear a mask in public places, especially around Eid Al Adha when there would be a lot of mingling among each other on the holy festival,” he added.

PakistanSwabTestHealth officials take a nasal swab sample from a boy at a screening facility for the COVID-19 in Hyderabad. AFP

He said Pakistan had implemented a strict lockdown at the start of the outbreak, which prevented the spread of the novel coronavirus in the general population and it also resulted in a slow death rate in Pakistan. He, however, added that with the ease in restrictions, the disease had been spreading like wildfire and due to economic reasons, the country could not afford another strict lockdown similar to which it had implemented in the earlier days of the outbreak.

"A strict lockdown would have other serious implications for Pakistan as it would further aggravate the malnutrition and stunting issue among children. At this moment, the circulation of virus among the population is widespread and the only viable option left for Pakistan is promoting the mandatory use of masks as well as other protective measures, including social distancing and frequent hand washing,” Dr Mokdad explained.

Indian-PakistancoupleIndian nationals previously stranded in Pakistan sit in a car as they are being transported to a quarantine facility near Wagah border. AFP

The IHME has forecast that deaths in Pakistan would continue to rise and wound not reach the peak in the near future. According to the study, the country is expected to record 1,430 daily deaths on Oct.1.

According to the forecast, Punjab would record 916 deaths on October 1, and Sindh 254 deaths per day.

The IHME’s forecast predicts deaths from the virus if countries impose social distancing measures for six weeks at the point when the death rate reaches eight per one million people. "Pakistan is not predicted to reach that threshold before Oct.1,” Dr Mokdad said.

According to the study, the number of deaths due to COVID-19 in different regions of the country till October 1 would be 861 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, 2,188 in Balochistan, 54 in Gilgit-Baltistan, 262 in Islamabad, 4,894 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 9,098 in Sindh and 24,830 in Punjab.

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