KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) – The spread of the coronavirus Delta variant is reaching alarming levels in Pakistan’s largest city Karachi on the eve of the Eid al Adha Muslim holiday as public and some private sector hospitals are reaching capacity and have started refusing patients, medical officials said on Tuesday.
The Sindh provincial government said on Monday that the COVID-19 situation in the city is becoming serious, and warned people that ignoring precautionary measures during the holiday could make matters worse.
During the past 24 hours, the coronavirus positivity rate in the Sindh capital increased to 25.7%, nearly five times the national rate of 5.25%.
Government hospitals have reached saturation point, something not witnessed during previous waves, and even some private hospitals are refusing patients, said Dr Qaiser Sajjad, secretary general of the Pakistan Medical Association.
“God have mercy on us, people are not taking this pandemic seriously. Such irresponsible behavior on the Eid festival will make matters worse,” Sajjad told Reuters.
The Delta variant could spread during the holiday as people travel from cities like Karachi to their home towns.
According to the Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences at the University of Karachi, there is 92.2% prevalence of the Delta variant in the city.
Dr Seemin Jamali, executive director of the Jinnah Hospital, Karachi’s biggest, told Reuters that 77 out of its 90 coronavirus beds were occupied and it was planned to add more.
“We did not face such a capacity situation during previous waves,” Jamali said. “The situation is getting pretty bad.”
The Muslim holiday and upcoming elections in Pakistani Kashmir on July 25 could prove to be super spreader events, as government and opposition are busy holding big public gatherings, the two doctors warned.
Last week, Pakistan’s planning minister, Asad Umar, said hospitals were seeing a rapid build-up in the influx of COVID patients. He had earlier warned of a fourth wave if precautionary measures were not followed.
(Additional reporting by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Giles Elgood)