RAWALPINDI/ISLAMABAD: The twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad continued to see surge in Covid-19 cases as 117 patients tested positive in the garrison city while Islamabad received 63 cases on Thursday.

At least three people have died and nine were discharged in Rawalpindi.

Meanwhile, markets and shopping malls in the twin cities were allowed to reopen do not appear to be following social distancing guidelines or taking other preventive measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus, and no action has been taken against such establishments and their owners despite directives to this effect from Chief Minister Usman Buzdar.

A 57-year-old man who lived on 6th Road died from Covid-19 on Thursday, two days after he was admitted to Holy Family Hospital (HFH).

An 82-year-old resident of Shah Allah Ditta Road in Bagh Sardaran, who was admitted to Benazir Bhutto Hospital (BBH) on May 12 has also died, as did a 65-year-old man who lived in the same area and was also brought to BBH on May 12.

Markets, shopping malls not following social distancing guidelines or taking other preventive measures

The total number of patients in Rawalpindi has reached 1,541, of which 63 have died and 304 have recovered. Currently, 595 people are being treated in hospitals and 579 are isolated in their homes.

While the number of cases in Rawalpindi continues to rise exponentially, 14 new cases were reported in the neighbouring districts of Attock and Chakwal, where 13 and one cases were reported, respectively, on Thursday.

Although two residents of Bagh Sardaran have died, the district administration has yet to seal any portion of the locality. Only the Rawalpindi Waste Management Company disinfected the area around the patients’ homes.

When asked, Commissioner retired Capt Mohammad Mehmood told Dawn that the district administrations had been told to seal areas where a large number of cases were reported.

He said the chief minister had expressed concern regarding violations of coronavirus prevention standard operating procedures (SOPs) in markets and issued directives that the district administration take action against violators.

He said the government did not permit a procession on Youm-i-Ali and limited Aitikaf in mosques. Majalis can be held in homes and imambargahs but the internal security department has issued 20-point guidelines that have been sent to the inspector general of police, commissioners and deputy commissioners and police across the province.

He said people need to be made aware of the necessity of protecting themselves against the coronavirus, as the World Health Organisation has warned that people will need to live with this virus in the near future.

Lifestyles need to be changed and people should take precautions to protect themselves and their families, he said.

District administrations have been asked to call meetings with traders and ask them to ensure safety measures are taken in markets from Monday, or markets and shops where social distancing and other SOPs are not practiced will be closed.

Warning issued to traders in Islamabad

The capital administration issued warning to traders after massive violations of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) regarding safety measures against Covid-19 were noticed in all the commercial centres.

Separate teams from the capital administration, including assistant commissioners and magistrates, checked the implementation of the SOPs in the Marakiz and commercial centres and noticed the violations.

The traders’ unions, who had been made responsible for ensuring the implementation of the SOPs, were informed about it and warned that their failure would lead to the spread of the virus.

“Violations were noticed at garments, cloth and shoe shops,” officials said, adding social distancing was not followed while people were allowed entry without masks. Besides, sanitisers were not available for the customers.

Moreover, they were also found not following the closing time and markets and shops were found open beyond 5pm.

Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Hamza Shafqaat told Dawn that action had been initiated against the violators and some shops sealed. So far, the administration has sealed four shops and inspected over 150 others and issued directions to them to adopt safety measures, he added.

“Marakiz and commercial centres were opened after two months and Eid is approaching. These are the main reasons behind crowding in the markets,” he said, adding SOPs were being violated everywhere but massively at G-9, Blue Area, Bhara Kahu and Tarmri.

It has been decided that strict action would be taken against the violators after three to four days if the violations continued.

Another spike

Another major single-day spike in the coronavirus cases was reported in the capital as 63 patients tested positive on Thursday, increasing the tally to 822, officials stated.

The virus spread to another locality as a positive case was reported from H-11. The area also has 21 suspected cases.

Fourteen cases were reported from G-7, five each from G-6, I-8, Khanna and Loi Bher, four from Sohan, three from Tarlai, two each from E-16, G-13, G-9, I-10, I-9, Shahzad Town and one case each from BHara Kahu, E-11, F-10, F-11, G-5, G-8, H-8 and Shah Allah Ditta. The locality of the one confirmed case was not known.

The capital health department expects 100 positive cases per day during the upcoming days, said an official, adding all possible measures were being taken to minimise the cases.

Meanwhile, three journalists covering parliament also tested positive.

A press release issued by Parliamentary Reporters Association said samples of journalists covering parliament were taken before the sessions of Senate and National Assembly on May 12.

So far, reports of 25 journalists have been received and three of them have been diagnosed with the virus. They are kept on isolation at their houses, it added.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2020