LAHORE: The alarming Covid-19 mortality rate and new infections in Punjab during the second wave of the virus have become a case for serious concern for the medical and health authorities as well as the public.
Experts warned that the situation could get out of hand if prompt measures were not adopted very soon. Medical experts, however, attributed the spread of the infection to poor implementation of Covid-19 guidelines by the police as well as district authorities.
Official data obtained by Dawn endorsed the serious concerns of medical and health experts. It showed that people living in the areas under smart lockdown made several complaints on the Punjab government’s official helpline about the non-implementation of Covid-19 guidelines.
The helpline received 121 complaints about thin presence of police, free movement of residents and outsiders to and from the localities under lockdown and poorly managed exit/entry points.
665 people test positive for Covid-19, 24 succumb to virus
Most of the issues surfaced in the posh areas of Lahore, including the Defence Housing Authority (DHA), some parts of Johar Town and some other housing societies where influential residents were not following the guidelines and police deployment was proving ineffective. Residents reported influential people violating the guidelines in DHA Phase VIII, Iqbal Town’s F Block, DHA Phase I and Samanabad’s N Block.
The authorities received 1,597 queries from across the province regarding smart lockdowns from Oct 1 to Dec 31.
Of these complaints, 183 were about the poor implementation of smart lockdown in major districts of Punjab, including Lahore, Rawalpindi, Multan and Gujranwala. Out of these, 121 surfaced from various areas of Lahore where the smart lockdown has been imposed in 41 localities.
People complained that no entry-exit points were established in most of these areas and hardly a couple of policemen were on guard. Under the established guidelines, police authorities were bound to seal the localities to restrict movement from there.
There were also complaints of residents not observing the timings of 9am to 7pm set for visiting grocery stores, milk, fruits and vegetable shops and petrol pumps.
The complainants were of the view that the Punjab government had only exempted government officials, judges, lawyers, court staff, health workers, law enforcement personnel, those in need of medical care and those going to buy groceries from the lockdown, but the free movement showed that every resident was exempted.
There was a strong impression that the government authorities were fully vigilant of the implementation on Covid-19 guidelines during the first wave of Covid-19, while the second wave saw a poor and discouraging response from the police and district authorities.
The health department confirmed to Dawn the authenticity of the official statistics. It said that the government helpline received 13,320 queries during the second wave of the infection from across Punjab since Oct 1. Of them, 1,597 were related to the smart lockdown that included 189 about non-implementation of the standard operating procedures in Punjab.
The figures showed that during December alone, more than 1,000 people died of the virus -- an alarming number that was earlier recorded in June when the infection was at its peak.
Meanwhile, according to the official update on Covid-19 on Wednesday, 665 people tested positive for Covid-19 during the last 24 hours in Punjab. Of these, 366 were recorded from Lahore, 83 from Rawalpindi and 58 from Faisalabad.
The remaining cases were reported from Mandi Bahauddin, Chiniot, Toba Tek Singh, Hafizabad, Dera Ghazi Khan, Jhang, Okara, Sahiwal, Sialkot, Sargodha, Gujrat, Chakwal, Bhakkar, Mianwali, Sheikhupura, Jhelum, Khushab, Muzaffargarh, Kasur, Vehari, Gujranwala, Nankana Sahib, Rahim Yar Khan, Rajanpur, Multan and Bahawalnagar.
Death toll from Covid-19 reached 4,284 across the province after 24 more critical patients succumbed to the virus during the same period.
Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2021