NCC may consider imposing further curbs today

Published April 23, 2021
In this file photo, a man wearing a protective face mask gestures while shopping amid the rush of people outside an electronics market in Karachi. — Reuters/File
In this file photo, a man wearing a protective face mask gestures while shopping amid the rush of people outside an electronics market in Karachi. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has convened a meeting of the National Coordination Committee on Covid-19 on Friday (today) to review the pandemic situation and devise a future strategy as over 5,800 persons tested positive for the contagious virus and 98 lost their lives over the past 24 hours.

The decision to convene the NCC meeting was announced by the Prime Minister Office after Mr Khan received a briefing on the Covid-19 situation from Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Faisal Sultan here on Thursday evening.

Talking to Dawn after his meeting with the prime minister, SAPM Dr Sultan said that during the NCC meeting they would take up with the provinces the issue of non-implementation of SOPs (standard operating procedures) required to prevent the spread of the disease.

Dr Sultan said they would ask the provinces to ensure strict implementation of the existing SOPs to avoid imposition of more curbs. Expressing concern over the current situation, the SAPM regretted that the people even in a small city like Islamabad were “taking it lightly, what to talk about other big cities”.

Over 5,800 new Covid cases, 98 deaths reported; PM briefed on situation

The SAPM said the data about the disease would be shared with the provinces in the NCC meeting. He said the media was wrongly reporting about the extended lockdown during Ramazan, saying that any such decision would only be made with the consensus of the provinces. He said it was not possible for them to take decisions without consulting the provinces and the country’s leadership. The SAPM said that whatever the decision would be made it would be taken with consensus.

Dr Sultan said that though the burden on the country’s health system was constantly increasing, the situation in Pakistan was still better than many counties of the world. He refuted the allegations that the government had failed to tackle the situation. He gave the example of neighbouring India where, he said, the situation was worse than Pakistan.

According to a source, the NCC in its meeting will also discuss if more countries should be included in the list of category-C for travel restrictions.

According to data released by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), 5,857 new cases and 98 deaths were reported on Thursday, of which 28 died on ventilators. Overall 559 ventilators were in use across the country; however, no patient was on vent in Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan.

Moreover, 100pc vents were occupied in Mardan, 88pc in Gujranwala, 85pc in Multan and 82pc in Lahore. About 85pc oxygenated beds were occupied in Gujranwala, 74pc in Peshawar and 67pc in Nowshera and Swabi.

The number of active cases rose to 84,935 on Thursday. A total of 778,238 cases have been detected so far, while 676,605 people have recovered. As many as 16,698 deaths have been reported since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in February last year. Moreover, 5,450 more patients were admitted to hospitals across the country on Thursday.

The NCOC is also scheduled to meet on Friday (today) before its members’ participation in the NCC meeting under the prime minister. The meeting, the sources said, is set to consider imposing further curbs across the country in case of the failure of the authorities to implement SOPs.

Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar had on Wednesday announced that the NCOC would impose further curbs during its meeting on Friday as the number of cases and positivity ratio were increasing continuously. He said the decision to put more countries on the list of category-C had been deferred as SAPM Dr Faisal Sultan could not attend the meeting due to his visit to Peshawar along with Prime Minister Khan. The decision would be taken on Friday.

“We have reached the edge and the situation can get out of control anytime. The cities which are under pressure include Lahore, Peshawar, Mardan, Nowshera, Faisalabad, Multan and Rawalpindi. Islamabad is still included in the list of safe cities. Two months ago Karachi’s positivity ratio was just 2pc but on Wednesday it was recorded at 13pc and 14pc in Hyderabad. There might not be a need to make an official announcement of closing down cities as everything would automatically come to a halt if the current trend persisted,” Mr Umar had said.

The NCOC had on April 19 placed India on category-C countries and banned the entry of inbound passengers from the country for two weeks to stop transportation of Indian virus which has double mutation. The forum had also announced that it would consider imposing similar restrictions on some other countries.

The international travel to Pakistan from category-C countries is restricted and only allowed as per guidelines of the NCOC.

A PAF special plane carrying 500,000 doses of SinoVac vaccine had arrived at Nur Khan Airbase from China on Wednesday. The consignment has been procured on payment.

Published in Dawn, April 23rd, 2021

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