PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Tuesday announced restriction on inter-provincial public transport on Saturdays and Sundays until the start of Ramazan, a ban on indoor and outdoor wedding ceremonies in 16 coronavirus-hit districts, and reduction of staff attendance in its offices by 50 per cent as part of measures to stem the spread of the infection in the province.
The announcement came after a provincial task force on Covid-19 met here with Chief Minister Mahmood Khan in the chair and the relevant officials in attendance.
The health department recorded 23 deaths from Covid-19 in the day.
According to a report of the department, 15 people died of the virus in Peshawar, three in Abbottabad, two each in Swabi and Swat and one in Lower Chitral.
The province’s Covid-19 death toll reached 2,342.
After the task force’s meeting, special assistant to the chief minister on information Kamran Bangash told reporters that the panel expressed concern about a surge in coronavirus incidence in the province and urged the people to strictly follow precautionary measures against the infection.
Bans wedding ceremonies in 16 Covid-hit districts, halves staff attendance in its offices
He said the Covid-19 positivity rate was very high in 16 districts of the province, where schools had been closed for in-person learning.
The chief minister’s aide said schools would be closed in all districts with five per cent positive rate or more.
He said the government had banned the holding of both indoor and outdoor wedding ceremonies in 16 coronavirus-hit districts with an immediate effect, while the people had been barred from visiting government offices, including Civil Secretariat, Peshawar.
Mr Bangash said the government offices would operate with 50pc staff andthe ministers’ with even less than that.
He said until the holy month of Ramazan began, inter-provincial public transportwould also be closed on Saturdays and Sundays, the safe days already announced for market closures.
The CM’s special assistant said a ministerial committee would take transporters into confidence about the restriction and would engage them for the implementation of SOPs in their vehicles.
He said despite the imposition of smart lockdowns and strict SOP implementation, the ongoing anti-polio campaign would continue with a workable mechanism being introduced to ensure the completion of the targeted children’s vaccination.
Health minister Taimoor Saleem Jhagra, who was also in attendance, said the provincial government was striving to increase the capacity of healthcare system and efforts were being made to ensure that major hospitals of the most-affected districts get 200 more beds for Covid-19 patients within two weeks.
He said the newly-established surgical blocks of Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar could be designated for coronavirus patients if the need arose.
The minister said central districts of the province, including Peshawar, Upper and Lower Dir, Swat, Shangla, Malakand, Bajaur, Charsadda, Bunir, Mardan, Swabi, Khyber, Nowshera, Abbottabad, Haripur and Kohat, were largely affected by the third wave of coronavirus.
He said the government was taking pragmatic steps to ensure the people’s protection from the virus but the government had yet not decided to impose a complete lockdown in the province.
The cabinet members urged the people to follow SOPs against Covid-19 and cooperate with the district administration for their enforcement.
The task force was briefed about the overall coronavirus-related situation, testing capacity, and vaccination.
The officials told participants that the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine had been administered to 64,000 people, including 37,000 health workers and 27,000 senior citizens.
They also said the strength of high dependency units and ICU beds in tertiary care hospitals was being increased.
The officials said during the last week, Peshawar and Lower Dir were the worst hit by coronavirus as they recorded the positivity rate of 24 and 34 per cent, respectively.
They said on average, 34 per cent positivity rate was recorded in Lower Dir, 23pc in Nowshera, 20pc in Swabi, 18pc in Buner and 13pc in Bajaur, 13pc in Mardan, nine per cent in Kohat, eight per cent in Upper Dir, seven per cent in Abbottabad and six per cent in Haripur district.
The chief minister urged the people to follow SOPs. He said the government had to take some serious steps to control the large-scale outbreak of coronavirus.
Mr Mahmood said he was hopeful that the people would help the government effectively deal with the recent coronavirus wave.
According to an official statement issued here, the task force reviewed in detail the third wave of coronavirus with a special focus on the administrative measures to stem the spread of the infection, including implementation of SOPs and enforcement of smart lockdowns.
The forum expressed concern about the increasing positivity rate in the province and stressed the need for strict enforcement of SOPs and other precautionary measures.
Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2021