Pakistan may soon cross peak seen during first virus wave, Asad warns

Published March 27, 2021
Federal minister Asad Umar chaired a meeting of the NCOC where Pakistan's third wave of the coronavirus was reviewed. — DawnNewsTV
Federal minister Asad Umar chaired a meeting of the NCOC where Pakistan's third wave of the coronavirus was reviewed. — DawnNewsTV

Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar said on Saturday that Pakistan's coronavirus situation could soon cross levels seen during the first wave in June last year, warning that if the surge in cases is not controlled, tougher restrictions will have to be imposed.

Umar was addressing a media briefing after chairing a session of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), the nerve centre of Pakistan's virus response, which he also heads.

"If the increase continues at this rate then in the next few days or next week, we will go beyond the level and peak we saw in the first wave in June and you all must remember what the situation was at the time."

He said he had already started getting messages that hospitals were nearing their full capacity so availability of beds might now become an issue.

"The reason behind sharing all this is not to create fear but to alert the nation so it can decisively act together and follow a plan of action to confront the challenge posed by Covid-19," he said.

The minister said that while the government's first priority was to protect people's livelihoods from being affected by Covid-19 restrictions, the rise in cases was alarming and tougher restrictions would be necessary in case the trend continues.

"We have to once again combat this disease — which is spreading — together and defend the people. We have to do it in a way that we don't allow the disease to spread to that extent in which unfortunately we have to deal a blow to people's livelihoods.

"Our first effort is this (protection of livelihoods) but you're seeing the speed with which this is continuing to spread. If we don't take immediate measures then such a situation can also develop that we have to do further restrictions."

Pakistan is in the grips of a third coronavirus wave and reported 4,468 new coronavirus cases on Saturday. This marks the highest single-day increase since June 21, 2020, according to data collected by Dawn.com, when 4,916 cases were reported. The current spike is being led by Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Islamabad with 2,330, 953 and 709 new cases, respectively.


Country-wide breakdown of new cases

  • Punjab: 2,330
  • Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 953
  • Islamabad: 709
  • Sindh: 293
  • Azad Jammu and Kashmir: 150
  • Balochistan: 26
  • Gilgit Baltistan: 7

In the same time period, the country recorded 67 fatalities from the virus, the majority of which — 48 — were confirmed in Punjab.

"The Covid situation which is developing at this time in the country, it is becoming a very dangerous situation," said Umar.

He said he was addressing the media briefing because "maybe up till now the people haven't realised what dangerous situation we are facing in the third wave of Covid-19."

Umar said implementation on restrictions and containment measures, the NCOC found in its review, was not being carried out as it should have been.

The federal minister said that while science would provide a definitive answer in due time for the reasons behind the third wave, at this time the British variant of the coronavirus was thought to be responsible since its detection in Pakistan.

"That has become a very big reason for the sudden rapid increase in the spread of this disease," he said, pointing out that the British variant was much more contagious.

He said the NCOC had looked at data from the world and the subcontinent and it showed that the variant-induced spread of the coronavirus was affecting not only Pakistan but the whole region, citing figures from India and Bangladesh that showed a rapid increase cases in both countries over the past few days.

"It is my request to all the political leadership — whether ours or the opposition — that this is the time to show leadership and spread this message that we have to once again combat this disease which is spreading and defend our people."

He said Pakistan had already shown before it could successfully confront the Covid-19 pandemic and called upon all sections of society including religious scholars and the media to play their role in spreading the message.

"If the administration's hands are strengthened then we will be successful in taking those measures to control this dangerous situation which is being born, but as I said, this will only be possible when we decide it as a nation."

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