Doctors in Pakistan are warning that the country’s already weak healthcare system could soon be overwhelmed by coronavirus patients.
So far, with fewer than 2,000 deaths, the outbreak hasn’t been as deadly as some initially feared. But with the rates of new cases and new fatalities at their highest levels yet, and lockdown restrictions lifted, doctors say intensive care units are now being stretched almost to capacity in many major hospitals.
In Karachi, a city of 15 million people, data shows only a handful of ICU beds still available for Covid-19 patients. Whilst in Lahore, a doctor recounted to the BBC being forced to turn away a patient who needed a ventilator, after he had already been rejected by two other hospitals. Medics in Peshawar and Quetta described being under similar levels of pressure.
Officials acknowledge some hospitals are full but insist there are still large numbers of beds available elsewhere, and are making public information about where are they are, whilst new facilities are in the process of being built in Karachi. But doctors fear the number of critical cases will continue to rise, and say their efforts to treat patients are being hampered by conspiracy theories and mistrust.