KARACHI: The public sector hospitals of the Sindh province have been facing an acute shortage of pulmonologists and respiratory therapists, but no concrete step has been taken in the past to fill these critical posts.
Health Experts said a large number of deaths due to the coronavirus are occurring because of lung failure across Pakistan, including Sindh. These casualties can be averted if pulmonologists and respiratory therapists are available in all tertiary care and district level hospitals.
Pulmonologists are only available at the Chest Department of the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), while no such facility is present in the Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi, Sindh Government Lyari Hospital, Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, Sindh Government Qatar Hospital, and other district hospitals of the city.
Although a few pulmonologists and respiratory therapists are available in Karachi’s private sector hospitals, the majority of public sector health facilities lack chest specialists.
Similarly, no pulmonologists and respiratory therapists are available in Hyderabad, Sukkur, Larkana, Nawabshah, and other cities of the province.
According to experts, the presence of pulmonologists and respiratory therapists is mandatory in Intensive Care Units (ICUs), particularly established for COVID-19 patients.
There is an urgent need to hire pulmonologists and respiratory therapists in public sector hospitals of Sindh to minimize the number of deaths resulting due to the coronavirus.
When contacted, Medical Superintendent, CHK, Dr Khadim Hussain Qureshi, said that no pulmonologists and respiratory therapists are posted in the hospital; however, a formal request is being sent to the Sindh Health Department for the provision of doctors.
Air Travel High: TSA Screens 1 Million For First Time Since March
How’s this for an October surprise? Despite a significant rise in COVID-19 cases in many parts of the country, it appears that more people are flying on commercial jetliners than at any time over the last seven months.
More than one million people were screened by the Transportation Security Administration at airport security checkpoints Sunday. It’s the first time the TSA’s daily traveler count has topped the one million mark since March 16.
And this wasn’t just a one-day surge in air travel. The TSA’s daily throughput figure has topped 900,000 eight times already this month, and the TSA reports that the 6.1 million people passing through U.S. airport checkpoints between Oct. 12 and Oct. 18 was the greatest weekly traveler volume measured since the start of the pandemic.
But experts say there is a lot of pent-up demand for air travel and it’s important to note that despite the modest increase, the number of people flying is still down more than 60% from the 2.6 million who flew on the same October Sunday last year.
Still, it’s a bit of good news at a time the nation’s airlines are burning through tens of millions of dollars a day and reporting huge financial losses due to the coronavirus pandemic. Delta and United both reported last week that they lost billions in the third quarter, as fewer people than expected dared to get onto airplanes in July, August and September. American and Southwest report their third-quarter results later this week, but are also expected to show billions in losses after many would be passengers canceled summer travel plans or drove to their destinations instead of flying.
The industry group Airlines for America says airlines are in desperate need for additional federal coronavirus relief, as they are collectively losing $5 billion a month.
Last year and into January and February of this year, airlines were setting passenger volume records. The TSA reported screening between 2.5 and 2.7 million people on the busiest travel days, which are usually Fridays and Sundays. But as the coronavirus outbreak spiked last March, companies halted business travel and millions canceled vacations and weekend getaways.
By mid-April, the number of travelers passing through security checkpoints plummeted to under 100,000, a decline of 96%. Other than the days after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the group Airlines for America says there hadn’t been that few people flying since the dawn of the jet airplane age in the 1950s.
There were short-lived upticks in air travel demand in early summer, especially around the Memorial Day and Fourth of July holiday weekends. But the number of COVID-19 cases spiked after each holiday, especially in parts of the country that rushed to reopen bars, restaurants and other gathering places. Lingering concerns about spreading the viral illness dampened demand for air travel during the later summer months.
As welcome as this month’s surprising rise in air travel is, there is still a lot of uncertainty over whether the trend will continue, especially heading into the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season, which is usually a busy air travel period.
Most airlines have significantly reduced their schedules as demand remains weak, and some have suspended service to smaller cities. In late September, bookings for travel in November were just a fraction of last year’s level, according to the airline data firm OAG.
And with what appears to be a new wave of COVID-19 cases surging, especially in the Midwest, several states are setting records for the daily number of infections being reported. Public health officials in many states are urging residents to stay home to celebrate the holidays in small family groups.
“COVID-19 has changed the way we work, live, and play, and will now change how we plan to celebrate the holidays,” said Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, who added that “the safest way to celebrate is with members of your household and connecting with others virtually.”
U.S. Borders With Canada And Mexico Will Stay Closed Another Month
The U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico will stay closed to nonessential travel for at least another month.
Bill Blair, Canada’s public safety minister, tweeted on Monday, “We are extending non-essential travel restrictions with the United States until November 21st, 2020. Our decisions will continue to be based on the best public health advice available to keep Canadians safe.”
The United States and Mexico have both seen far higher COVID-19 mortality rates than Canada.
Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, confirmed the news.
“To continue to limit the spread of COVID, the US, Mexico, & Canada will extend the restrictions on non-essential travel through Nov 21,” he tweeted. “We are working closely with Mexico & Canada to identify safe criteria to ease the restrictions in the future & support our border communities.”
In an interview Monday with a Canadian radio station, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noted that the country’s southern neighbor does not have the virus under control.
“The situation in the United States continues to be of concern. So we’re going to make sure we’re keeping Canadians safe as best as we can,” Trudeau told Global News.
“Canadians can be deeply reassured to know that their various orders of government are always going to work together to keep them safe, unlike some other places we see around the world,” he said.
The borders have been closed since March 23.
The U.S. Embassy in Canada explained that the border policy applies to automotive, commuter rail and ferry travel but not air, rail or sea travel. It also said:
” ‘Non-essential’ travel includes travel that is considered tourism or recreational in nature. ‘Essential travel’ still permitted includes: work and study, critical infrastructure support, economic services and supply chains, health, immediate medical care, and safety and security.”
Last month, President Trump said that Canada wanted the border to reopen and said that “we’re going to be opening the borders pretty soon.” But public opinion surveys have found Canadians support keeping the border closed.
UNICEF To Stockpile Over Half A Billion Syringes For Future COVID-19 Vaccine
UNICEF, the largest single buyer of vaccines in the world, wants to hit the ground running as soon as a COVID-19 vaccine is ready.
The United Nations agency said Monday it plans to stockpile 520 million syringes by the end of 2020. It also will map out global distribution and storage plans for a future COVID-19 vaccine.
Purchasing the syringes now will help reduce the pressure on the market, the organization said, and will ensure timely availability once a vaccine is rolled out.
“To move fast later, we must move fast now,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement. “We are doing everything we can to deliver these essential supplies efficiently, effectively and at the right temperature.”
The agency, also known as the United Nations Children’s Fund, plans to distribute up to 1 billion syringes by next year. It will also purchase 5 million safety boxes for the safe disposal of used syringes.
Vaccines are heat sensitive and typically are shipped by air, while syringes are bulkier and are transported by sea, UNICEF said. Buying them ahead of time can prevent delays.
The World Health Organization and UNICEF will map out existing cold-chain equipment and storage capacity to ensure the vaccines are transported and stored at proper temperatures.
UNICEF provides around 600 million to 800 million syringes for its regular immunization programs, the organization said. It expects to triple or quadruple that number for COVID-19 vaccines, depending on the number produced and secured by UNICEF.
This announcement comes as global entities race to complete a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Trump administration has publicly refused to join the international COVID-19 vaccine collaborative known as COVAX. It is jointly led by the World Health Organization, the Gavi vaccine alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
The White House explained that the decision was in part because of the involvement of the WHO, which the Trump administration describes as “corrupt.”
COVAX hopes to accelerate the development and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines and distribute them fairly to both poor and rich countries. The WHO said in July that 165 countries representing more than 60% of the world’s population joined the collaborative.
The U.S. government is instead pursuing its own initiative, called Operation Warp Speed. The goal is to produce and deliver 300 million doses of vaccine, with initial distributions beginning in January.
Pfizer, the apparent front-runner in developing a COVID-19 vaccine for the U.S., says its trial results won’t be ready until mid-November at the earliest.
“Vaccinating the world against COVID-19 will be one of the largest mass undertakings in human history,” said Fore, of UNICEF. “We will need to move as quickly as the vaccines can be produced.”
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