Govt warns against spike in virus cases

Updated 12 Jul 2020

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Asad Umar said that collective efforts of the people were needed to contain the virus by following the SOPs. — AFP/File
Asad Umar said that collective efforts of the people were needed to contain the virus by following the SOPs. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: As over 61 per cent of the patients who contracted novel coronavirus across the country have fully recovered, and there’s a decline in the number of tests as well as occupancy of ventilators, the government on Saturday urged the masses to continue taking precautionary measures to avoid a situation similar to the three countries with the highest number of cases, namely the United States, Brazil and India.

Of the total 248,135 cases reported till the late hours of Saturday evening, 153,134 (61.7pc) patients have already recovered, indicating that active cases have dropped to 95,001 (38.2). Over the past 24 hours, the country reported 2,670 new cases and 64 deaths, taking the national tally to 248,135 cases and fatalities to 5,170.

Noting that all the trends of Covid-19 were declining, Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar on Saturday tweeted that on June 20, there were 2,969 patients on oxygenated beds and 546 on ventilators. “Alhamdulillah the number has been reduced due to which now there are 1,762 patients on oxygenated beds and 394 on ventilators, which depict a 28 per cent reduction in number,” he said.

Mr Asad said this happened due to the smart lockdowns policy of the government and enforcement of the standard operating procedures (SOPs). However, he added that collective efforts of the people were needed to contain the virus by following the SOPs. This way both the life and livelihoods of the people would remain safe, he said.

Minister says fewer patients are on oxygenated beds and ventilators since June 20

The minister warned the masses that the violation of SOPs could lead to the situation similar to the US, Brazil and India. According to an international website, currently Pakistan is ranked 12th in terms of most number of cases, while the US is on the top with 3.3 million cases, Brazil on the second with 1.8m cases and India third with almost 850,000 cases.

According to the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Covid-19, there are only 394 patients on ventilators and 1,174 ventilators were vacant as overall 1,568 ventilators have been allocated for Covid-19 patients across the country.

On Friday Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza, who has gone into isolation after contracting the deadly virus, tweeted: “We are fast approaching a major challenge in Eidul Azha. As a nation we have to take a collective responsibility. If we don’t, we may cause another spike in Covid-19 cases. SOPs from health perspective are here. http://covid.gov.pk/new_guidelines.”

Testing controversy

Interestingly, the Covid-19 testing facility that had been enhanced with the conduct of up to 32,000 tests per day during the month of June witnessed a drop in the number of tests per day in recent weeks.

On June 20, as many as 28,855 tests were conducted across the country. The number of tests dropped to 21,935 on June 24 and to 21,033 on June 26, while it slightly increased to 23,092 on July 2 and further to 23,569 on July 10.

During these three weeks, the country rep­orted a reduction in number of daily cases.

Earlier in April, a controversy over number of tests and government’s alleged move to artificially flatten the curve was triggered with a statement of Pakistan Peoples Party Central Information Secretary Nafisa Shah, whose party rules in Sindh. She alleged that the move to reduce number of tests, apart from Sindh, was intended to ‘artificially flatten the curve’ and giving a false sense of security to the people of other provinces.

In a tweet addressed to Dr Zafar Mirza, National Disaster Management Authority, federal Minister for Special Initiatives Asad Umar and the National Institute of Health, the PPP leader had asked: “Pls tell us what’s going on? Why have #Punjab, @KP, #ICT, #Balochistan reduced their testing since April 24th?

“To artificially flatten the curve? To give people a false sense of security? To show #Sindh has the highest no of cases?”

Later in June when the number of daily tests started dropping again, Mr Umar claimed that the tests were reduced because hospitals were receiving less number of patients. He said it also proved that the pace of virus spread had slowed down.

On Saturday, too, Mr Umar tried to prove the decline in number of confirmed cases through the number of critical patients on oxygenated beds and on ventilators in hospitals.

Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2020