ISLAMABAD: A health worker gets medical history of a person before taking sample during door-to-door testing for coronavirus on Monday.—AP
ISLAMABAD: A health worker gets medical history of a person before taking sample during door-to-door testing for coronavirus on Monday.—AP

• 120 more die in 24 hours; Covid-19 cases surge to 146,863
• AJK capital completely shut, Peshawar goes into partial lockdown

ISLAMABAD: As Pakis­tan records 120 deaths — the highest ever number of fatalities from novel coronavirus in a day — during the past 24 hours, the government has announced that 20 cities have been identified as potential Covid-19 hotspots/clusters where restrictive measures are needed to contain the virus in line with the prime minister’s smart lockdown policy.

During the past 24 hours, the country reported 4,634 Covid-19 cases and 120 deaths, taking the national tally of cases to 146,863 and fatalities to 2,783.

Of the 20 cities, six are in Sindh (Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Ghotki, Larkana and Khairpur), eight in Punjab (Lahore, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Sialkot, Gujarat, Multan, Gujranwala and Dera Ghazi Khan), four in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (Peshawar, Swat, Malakand and Mardan), besides Balochistan capital Quetta and federal capital Islamabad.

According to a statement of the National Coordination and Operation Centre, the NCOC undertook a comprehensive review of potential Covid-19 clusters and hotspots across Pakistan in line with PM Khan’s announcement of containment of Covid-19 through smart lockdown strategy.

“A total of 20 cities across Pakistan have been identified as having likely increase in ratio/speed of infection which needs restrictive measures for containment of Covid-19 and names have been shared with the provinces,” it stated.

To contain the spread of the disease while keeping different sectors open, the government has formulated Tracing, Testing and Quarantine (TTQ) strategy. It is aimed at identifying disease spread, focused clusters/hotspots to enable targeted lockdowns and need-driven resource optimisation at all levels. The TTQ strategy involves ramping up of testing, rapidly tracing the contacts of confirmed positive cases, and effective isolation of positive and suspected cases.

“In Islamabad, Sectors G-9/2 and G-9/3 had more than 300 cases and were sealed along with Karachi Company due to which 50,000 people would be affected. The new hotspots in Islamabad which are being monitored and might be sealed include I-8, I-10, Ghauri Town, Bharakhau, G-6 and G-7,” it added.

AJK’s capital city, Muzaffarabad, has been completely shut due to which 200,000 population has been affected.

More than 1,200 other lockdowns were in place in different parts of Pakistan.

To ensure the implementation of health guidelines/instructions and preventive measures including wearing of face mask in public as per the World Health Organisa­tion’s new guidelines on the subject, special teams are working across the country to ensure enforcement of the standard operating procedures.

In Lahore, some areas of Gulberg Town, cantonment, Wagah, Allama Iqbal Town, Samanabad Zone, Nishter Zone, Data Gunj Bakhsh Zone and Ravi Town may be sealed, while Peshawar’s Ashrafia Colony, parts of University Town, Danisha­bad and Sector E-2 in Hayatabad Phase-I have already been closed till further orders.

A meeting of the provincial taskforce on Covid-19, which was chaired by the KP Chief Minister Mahmood Khan, approved a smart lockdown strategy for the hotspots to contain massive outbreak of virus.

The NCOC was briefed in detail about operationalisation of additional oxygenated beds and ventilators including procurement of critical healthcare equipment by the National Disaster Management Authority as announced by the PM.

“A total of 2,150 additional oxygenated beds will be made functional to meet additional requirements, of which 1,000 oxygenated beds will be functional by the end of June and another 1,150 by the end of July,” it added.

According to NCOC data released on Monday, 29,085 tests were conducted across the country in a day.

During the past 24 hours, more than 10,557 violations of health guidelines/instructions observed across Pakistan. More than 1,252 markets/shops, 12 industries and 1,148 transports were cautioned/fined/sensitised/sealed.

Among them, 4,929 violations of the SOPs were reported in Punjab, 3,878 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 589 in AJK, 128 in GB and 21 violations of guidelines were reported from the federal capital.

Lockdown explained

While talking to Dawn, Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Zafar Mirza said basically the idea behind closing the areas was to stop the likelihood of transmission of virus from one area to another.

“So a circle is drawn around the areas whenever high number of cases is reported. The mobility is curtailed in the area. But one needs to understand that it is not curfew. Shops of essential items remain open in the areas and even supply of edible items and medicines is allowed from outside the circle so that people would not face scarcity of essential items,” he added.

Dr Mirza said it was ensured that the SOPs would be followed and people would not move unnecessarily and they would have to wear masks.

“So people can go out of their houses to buy medicines and edible items, but they cannot go outside unnecessarily such as for playing cricket. Moreover, people can even go out of the sealed area if they need to shift a patient to hospital or for some very urgent matter. That movement will be allowed by the district administration with the consultation of health departments,” the PM’s aide explained.

“After announcing the lockdown, contact tracing is done to find the cases and isolate them. Once the area is disinfected and contacts are traced, the lockdown would be lifted,” he added.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2020

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