Pakistan records 54,000 new cases, 1,100 deaths in May

Updated 01 Jun 2020

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The death toll also jumped by 79 during the past 24 hours to cross the 1,500 mark.  — AFP/File
The death toll also jumped by 79 during the past 24 hours to cross the 1,500 mark. — AFP/File

• 2,785 more contract coronavirus in a day, tally rises to 71,068
• Minister asks officials to plan strategy for further easing restrictions

ISLAMABAD: As over 54,000 people contracted the novel coronavirus and more than 1,100 patients died in Pakistan during the month of May, the percentage of tests with positive result has also increased tremendously.

The tally of countrywide cases surged to 71,068 from 16,817 cases, which were reported on April 30 by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), with the latest addition of 2,785 cases in a single day.

The death toll also jumped by 79 during the past 24 hours to cross the 1,500 mark.

According to the NCOC, the country had 16,817 coronavirus patients (6,053 in Sindh, 6,340 in Punjab, 2,627 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 1,049 in Balochistan, 343 in Islamabad, 339 in Gilgit-Baltistan and 66 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir), with 385 deaths reported till April 30 since the detection of the first case on Feb 26.

However, the situation completely changed during the last one month.

So far, 28,245 cases have been reported in Sindh, 25,056 in Punjab, 10,027 in KP, 4,393 in Balochistan, 2,418 in Islamabad, 678 in Gilgit Baltistan and 251 cases in AJK.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) Dr Zafar Mirza on Sunday said the situation was continuously deteriorating as not only number of cases was increasing but percentage of the positive tests was also rising.

At a media briefing, he said: “Currently, 723 patients are in critical condition, of whom 201 are on ventilators. Overall 28pc ventilators, dedicated for the Covid-19 patients, are being used, but the ratio is increasing.” However, he said, as pressure was mounting on tertiary care hospitals, an (wrong) impression was being built that the healthcare system had collapsed.

Dr Mirza said a Resource Management System (RMS) had been introduced to ensure that the patients were shifted to only those hospitals which had vacant intensive care beds and ventilators.

Chief Executive Officer of the National Information Technology Board Shabahat Ali, who also participated in the media briefing, said for last two months preparations had been under way to launch the RMS. The system will be made available across the country on June 1.

“Because of the system it will become possible for the provinces and healthcare facilities to provide information regarding vacant or available ICU beds and ventilators. Moreover, a mobile app has been launched due to which emergency response service providers will be able to shift the patients to the hospitals having vacant beds,” he said.

Plan to ease restrictions

While chairing a meeting of the NCOC on Sunday, Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar directed the committee to devise a plan to further ease lockdown while ensuring that SOPs are strictly followed.

The NCOC is working to devise long- and short-term strategies on Covid-19 titled “Living with the Pandemic”.

The minister directed the relevant officials to pursue a vigorous awareness campaign to highlight the measures being taken by the government to contain Covid-19 and underscore its achievements in this regard. The campaign should also focus on ensuring behavioural change towards the virus while also underlining that the main aim of the government was to safeguard the people from the pandemic.

Expressing satisfaction over the availability of ventilators at hospitals across the country, the minister directed the officials concerned to provide latest data on the availability of beds and related facilities for the information of the infected people.

The committee was told that the RMS would be launched across the country on June 1. Under this system, the hospitals would share the details of local resources available to them, total admitted patients, denial of admissions, number of beds and ventilators available, as well as other facilities being provided to them.

SAPM on Health Dr Zafar Mirza said the health ministry was planning to mobilise retired doctors of public sector hospitals, young doctors, doctors on house jobs, and final year medical students to cope with the situation. Moreover, new doctors and paramedics would be recruited through walk-in interviews.

The forum was apprised that the provinces had been asked to ensure community mobilisation and set up call centres in their respective areas by June 15.

The committee was also told that Sindh and Balochistan governments preferred the home-quarantine policy instead of imposing smart lockdown in specific areas.

The NCOC meeting was attended by Interior Minister Brig (Retd) Syed Ijaz Ahmed Shah, Minister for National Food Security and Research Fakhar Imam, Minister for Economic Affairs Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Security Dr Moeed Yousaf.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2020