Pakistan black market in blood plasma for COVID-19

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As coronavirus chaos has enveloped Pakistan, with hospitals overflowing, doctors dying and infections escalating at an unmanageable rate, The Guardian reports that a dangerous black market in blood plasma has emerged. The blood plasma of recovered coronavirus patients is now being sold for upwards of £3,000 to those who are desperately looking for a cure, at a time when doctors say Pakistan’s healthcare system is on the brink of collapse.

The report says convalescent plasma is being trialled around the world as a possible treatment for the disease. It contains antibodies generated by the immune systems of people who have fought off the virus. Doctors in government hospitals in Islamabad said they had witnessed transactions between patients and intermediaries. According to the report sources at the federal investigation agency confirmed they were aware of the unregulated black market sales of blood plasma but that it was up to the police to investigate individual cases.

Doctors said that hospitals in Islamabad had also run out of vital drugs, such as dexamethasone which was recently proven to help in COVID-19 recovery, as well oxygen cylinders, because they had been stolen and were now being sold for 25 times the market price on the black market.

The Guardian reports that Pakistan now has one of the fastest infection rates in the world, with 185,000 confirmed cases and upwards of 5,000 new infections a day. The planning minister, Asad Umar, has said cases could multiply eightfold by the end of July and hit 1.2m.

Lockdown restrictions were lifted in Pakistan on 18 May by the Supreme Court when it said the virus was “not a pandemic in Pakistan” and questioned why the fight to contain it was “swallowing so much money”.

The report says the despair among doctors is palpable. A doctor at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), the largest government hospital in Islamabad, said not only had he not been paid for four months, but rife misinformation meant doctors were being accused of being part of a conspiracy to allow patients to die, so more money would be given to the Pakistan government by international health organisations like the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Full report in The Guardian

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