By the first week of September 2020, 65-70% of Karachi’s population would be carrying COVID-19 antibodies, claims Dr. Tahir Shamsi.
Dr. Tahir Sultan Shamsi, a top Pakistani health expert, claims that the country is moving toward COVID-19 herd-immunity within the upcoming two months, and around 65-70% of Karachi city population will be carrying COVID-19 antibodies by the first week of September 2020.
According to Shamsi, almost forty percent of the city’s population had already been exposed to the novel coronavirus up till the third week of July, and this number will further grow by September.
Shamsi and his colleagues researched Karachi’s population by dividing it into three separate segments, namely healthy blood donors, industrial workers, and healthcare workers. The data is based on the antibody tests conducted by them at the National Institute of Blood Diseases (NIBD), Karachi. These tests were conducted through five different methods and FDA-approved kits.
The results reveal that approximately forty percent of the population has already been infected by the deadly virus asymptomatically, and this number will expand to around sixty-five to seventy percent by the start of September, which will see it crossing the minimum requirements for achieving COVID-19 herd immunity status.
“In April, only 5% of people tested had developed COVID-19 antibodies, in May it reached 12% and in June 21% of people from three different segments of the society were seropositive. The ratio is around 40% in the third week of July 2020.”
Shamsi mentions the example of India, where less than 1% of the population has tested positive for COVID-19. But a recent survey by their government in New Delhi revealed that one in four people of the city has already been exposed to COVID-19.
He has asked the city authorities to conduct a population-based sero-surveillance study in the city as well as in the country to determine the actual number of infected people in Pakistan.
“All parameters in Pakistan are indicating that we are heading towards herd immunity, which is evident from a dramatic decrease in COVID-19 cases in the last 8-10 days.”
The response of PM’s focal person for COVID-19 on Shamsi’s claim
On the contrary, Dr. Faisal Sultan, a health expert and PM’s focal person on coronavirus, said that Shamsi’s claim is based on a ‘single-source data’, which is fine but we need to tread carefully with the extrapolations in this matter.
He said let the results of the serosurvey come, which will reveal the accurate percentage of the infected people in the country. He concluded by saying that although it has some limitations, it’s the best option we got, adding that “The main issue is interpretation with knowledge.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Rana Muhammad Sattar, an Epidemiologist, called Shamsi’s remarks a “significant overestimation” and questioned the quality of screening tests.
“I am not very confident if the newly-used tests correctly detect COVID-19 antibodies or cross-react with other preexisting ones as well.”
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