ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Army on Monday said that it had deployed troops across the country in response to the government’s call for assistance in enforcement of recommended measures for containing the Covid-19 surge.

“Army troops have reached every district across the country since 6am today to assist the civil administration,” ISPR Director General Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar said at a briefing.

This includes ‘enhanced deployment’ in 16 cities having very high positivity rate — the percentage of people testing positive for the virus of all those tested in a day.

These 16 cities are Islamabad, Peshawar, Mardan, Nowshera, Charsadda, Swabi, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan, Bahawalpur, Gujranwala, Karachi, Hyderabad, Quetta and Muzaffarabad.

Says more than 75pc of Pakistan’s oxygen production is being consumed by the health sector

The deployment follows a notification by the interior ministry on Sunday, authorising deployment of troops under Article 245 at the request of the provinces.

The National Coordination Committee, headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan, had earlier sought the army’s assistance in enforcement of coronavirus SOPs.

“In view of the deteriorating situation of the epidemic, and in accordance with orders of the federal government for protection of the people and the protection of public health, the Pakistan Army has been called upon to assist the civil institutions across the country under Article 245,” the military spokesman said.

The army, he said, would provide full support as Emergency Responder.

“In this hour of ordeal, Pakistan Army will use all its capabilities to take all possible steps for the health and safety of the people by reaching out to every corner of the country,” Maj Gen Iftikhar added.

Explaining the deployment, he said the army teams deployed in every administrative division were headed by an officer of the rank of a brigadier. Meanwhile, at the district level an officer of the rank of lieutenant colonel would be assisting the local administration.

Pakistan, in the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, is faced with a very grim situation in which the number of cases has spiked sharply and so has the number of people dying from the disease.

The country had on Saturday reported 157 deaths over the previous 24 hours, the highest single-day Covid-19 death toll since the start of the pandemic in February last year.

Underscoring the gravity of the situation, Gen Iftikhar said: “At present, the global mortality rate due to novel coronavirus is 2.12pc, whereas the death rate in Pakistan has increased to 2.16pc. This is the first time since the start of the epidemic that our mortality rate is higher than the global rate.”

The ISPR chief said the third wave was proving to be far more “dangerous and deadly” than the first two waves.

“About 4,300 coronavirus patients are currently hospitalised in critical condition out of which 570 are on ventilator support. Ventilator occupancy in major cities is over 90 per cent,” Gen Iftikhar said.

He said that more than 75 per cent of the oxygen produced in the country was being consumed by the health sector. He warned that if the situation persists the government would have to divert the oxygen allocated to the industry to the health sector.

Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2021

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