A day after the National Command and Control Centre (NCOC) re-imposed restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the country, Pakistan reported more than 2,000 virus cases for the first time since January.
According to official data, Pakistan has reported 2,258 cases in the last 24 hours, marking the first time the country has reported over 2,000 infections since January 29, when 2,186 cases were recorded.
An NCOC press release stated that 42,164 tests were conducted on March 10, which translates into a positivity rate of 5.3 per cent, while the total number of active cases in the country is 17,627 as of March 11.
Breakdown of cases reported during last 24 hours:
- Punjab: 1,290 cases
- Islamabad: 350 cases
- Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 289 cases
- Sindh: 256 cases
- Azad Jammu and Kashmir: 57 cases
- Balochistan: 16 cases
With the new cases, the national tally has risen to 597,497.
The NCOC also shared the percentage of ventilators occupied in four major areas of the country. According to the breakdown, Lahore has the rate of ventilator occupancy at 39 per cent.
Highest ventilator occupancy rates
- Lahore: 39pc
- Islamabad: 37pc
- Peshawar: 24pc
- Multan: 21pc
Furthermore, another city in Punjab — Gujrat — has the highest rate of oxygen beds currently occupied at 94pc, highlighting a worsening situation in the province.
Highest oxygen beds occupancy rates
- Gujrat: 94pc
- Peshawar: 39pc
- Islamabad: 36pc
- Lahore: 29pc
Punjab reports more than 1,000 cases for second straight day
Meanwhile, Punjab has reported 1,290 coronavirus cases and 33 deaths during the past 24 hours. The provincial total has risen to 180,944 and the death toll is 5,662.
This is the second straight day the province has reported more than 1,000 coronavirus cases. A day earlier, Punjab recorded 1,006 cases and 29 deaths.
According to the Punjab health department's data, 741 of the 1,290 cases (57.4pc) were reported in Lahore – the provincial capital. Rawalpindi and Faisalabad both reported 81 cases each, followed by 58 in Gujrat.
Addressing a press conference later on Thursday, Punjab Health Minister Yasmin Rashid said that the public needed to practice precautionary measures in order to curb the spread of the disease.
She stated that some parts of the province were reporting the British variant of the Covid-19 virus which was more contagious. "[Therefore] we think that the British strain is causing a spike in cases," she said.
She added that it was important to relay this information to the public as some had taken the situation "very lightly". "When the government decided to lift restrictions [...] people stopped taking precautionary measures," she said.
The Punjab health minister also urged citizens over the age of 60 to register themselves for the Covid-19 vaccine.
Earlier this week, a senior official of the health department had said the Punjab government’s hospitals were reporting an alarming situation because of the increasing number of the Covid-19 patients.
He had warned that if new cases continued to increase at the present pace, the government would have to expand the bed ratio and treatment facilities for Covid-19 patients. The facilities at public hospitals were yet to be reviewed, he had added, seeking anonymity.
NCOC re-imposes restrictions
The government, in view of the declining trend of Covid-19 cases prevailing in the country, had earlier relaxed a number of restrictions on commercial activities and official work on Feb 24.
Under the new directives, time limit on commercial activities had been lifted and condition of 50 per cent attendance at workplaces was removed with immediate effect.
Permission to hold indoor wedding ceremonies and opening of cinemas and shrines had also been granted with effect from March 15
However, expressing concern over the government’s decision to relax Covid-19 related restrictions, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) had on March 4 warned that the coronavirus situation may worsen in the country as the vaccination campaign was moving at a slow pace.
It suggested that the restrictions shouldn’t be lifted till 70 per cent of the country’s population was vaccinated against coronavirus.
As cases began rising drastically since then, the NCOC on Wednesday (March 10) re-imposed a number of restrictions that had been in force in the country prior to Feb 24.
The centre announced a two-week spring vacation in educational institutions in 10 cities whereas Balochistan and Sindh were suggested to limit attendance to 50pc.
It decided to continue smart lockdowns and micro smart lockdowns and re-enforce 50pc work from home policy and time limit of 10pm on all commercial activities with immediate effect. Amusement parks will be closed at 6pm and strict compliance of standard operating procedures (SOPs) will continue across the board.
The NCOC session was presided over by Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar which reviewed the non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) already issued and valid till March 15.
Later at a joint press conference, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan and Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood said a number of relaxations had been withdrawn. Mahmood said the meeting discussed the prevailing pandemic situation in the country.
“It was decided that in Sindh and Balochistan, the situation was better due to which 50pc students will be allowed to attend schools per day. In 10 cities of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Kashmir and Islamabad, spring vacations will start from March 15 and educational institutions will remain closed for two weeks till March 28 in view of the rising Covid-19 cases,” he said.
The minister said the cities where the new directives would be applicable were Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Lahore, Gujrat, Multan, Rawalpindi, Sialkot, Islamabad, Muzaffarabad and Peshawar. However, he said final examinations, which were under way or expected to take place later this month, including those of O and A levels, would go ahead as per schedule.
Additionally, he said in the remaining parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, half of the students would keep attending classes daily.
He said the provincial governments would keep reviewing the situation and, if it worsened, closure of schools would be necessary.