LAHORE: The decision to lift ban on commercial, educational and social activities amid reports of surge in the number of new infections and deaths has entailed the risk of third wave of the novel coronavirus, particularly in the province.

The situation has turned [somewhat] worrisome in Punjab which is reporting almost 50 per cent of the country’s total infections, with around 100 per cent increase in positive cases and casualties these days.

The rising infections have prompted Punjab’s apex body of the medical and health experts to call an emergency meeting to discuss the matter.

The Corona Experts Advisory Group (CEAG) that met on Wednesday, showed serious concerns on the decision of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) to re-open offices, marriage halls [completely], shrines and schools.

CEAG wants govt to expedite vaccination

The CEAG prepared a set of recommendations for the government authorities to curb the spread of the virus, particularly in Punjab, primarily suggesting them to accelerate the pace of vaccinating people and close down the offices, commercial and educational activities ‘if and when needed’.

Currently, the province is reporting daily on average 700 new infections which have been on the decline since January this year - almost 400 new cases of the virus daily – until mid of February.

The daily count of Covid-19 new infections and deaths started increasing gradually in Punjab from the middle of February.

According to the official statistics, the total number of new infections on Feb 15 was 435 and deaths 14.

A few days later, the province witnessed an increase in the daily new infections that crossed the 500 figure on Feb 17 with 30 deaths.

The spread of the coronavirus intensified in the last week which is evident from the official reports.

On Feb 26, the daily count of new cases suddenly jumped to 748 in Punjab, the day when the government issued notification to remove restrictions.

During the last five days (from Feb 28 to March 4), a total of 3,374 people tested positive for the virus while 143 deaths were reported in Punjab.

This figure was considerably less than that reported during the first five days of February when Punjab had reported 1,958 new infections and 85 deaths.

The medical experts have declared the removal of restrictions on educational and commercial activities too early.

CEAG Chairman Prof Dr Mahmood Shaukat said during group’s meeting, the participants suggested the government to expedite the process of Covid-19 vaccination [which is too slow in Punjab].

He said the second key recommendation was the implementation of the standard operating procedures (SoPs) issued by the Punjab government for general public.

Prof Shaukat lamented that the SoPs were being violated blatantly in government offices, public places and educational institutions.

“So far, the CEAG believed that the present increase in the number of new infections and deaths in Punjab was the result of fluctuation in virus spread,” he said.

Commenting about the NCOC decision to lift ban on corona-related sanctions, he said, in the starting phase of first wave, the centre had been giving representation to the CEAG in its national meetings.

This practice was later abandoned and only health ministers or the secretaries of health departments from the provinces had been attending the [NCOC] meetings.

Published in Dawn, March 5th, 2021

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