Health minister claims at press conference that there is ‘no reason to panic’ despite rising number of infections
Punjab Chief Minister has approved a plan to commence a clinical trial of the remdesivir drug to treat patients suffering from the novel coronavirus, Health Minister Dr. Yasmin Rashid told a press conference on Tuesday.
“We will decide based on the results from 1,000 test participants if this drug should be made a part of the standard practice or not,” she said from Lahore. “The drug is controlled at the moment, it is not even sold by the company in the open market,” she said, adding that the trial would also help authorities identify what, if any, side effects there were from using this medicine.
To a question, Rashid said the public should avoid using herbal medicines to treat COVID-19. “We do not know if it [herbal remedy] will work or not and it may have some adverse side effects,” she warned.
According to the health minister, there is sufficient capacity in hospitals of Punjab to cater to an expected surge in cases. “There is no need to panic,” she said, referring to reports of patients having to run between multiple hospitals to find any empty bed or ventilator.
Rashid said that in provincial capital Lahore—which she described as the epicenter of the virus in the province—42 percent of ventilators and 63.2 percent of intensive care units were currently occupied. She claimed some of the panic might have been triggered by a lack of space in hospitals that patients preferred to visit.
“Patients cannot go to whichever hospital they wish since beds might be fully occupied there,” she said. “This is not a wish program where you can just go to the hospital you want [without inquiring about bed availability],” she said, adding the government would soon setup patient information desks in all hospitals so relatives of admitted patients could obtain up-to-date information about their condition.
Earlier, talking to Samaa TV, the health minister said that Lahore alone now had the same number of cases as the rest of Punjab province combined. “Lahore has thus far reported more than 18,000 infections,” she said, as she—similar to Prime Minister Imran Khan—blamed the citizenry for the spread.
“At first, people thought the virus does not even exist. Now they’ve begun believing otherwise after seeing their own family members being infected,” she said, ignoring that part of the reason for the public’s ambivalent attitude to the virus was the premier telling them it was “just the flu” and the health minister herself claiming it could be cured with panadol.
“All provinces are under pressure presently, but Punjab is under the most constraint because of its massive population,” added Rashid.
Punjab on Tuesday became the first province to cross 40,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus. The province has thus far reported 8,293 recoveries and 773 deaths, and is rapidly emerging as the region worst-hit by COVID-19.