Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar said on Friday that Pakistan has so far managed to cope with the increase in critical care Covid-19 patients by proactively building the capacity of the entire system.
In a series of tweets, the federal minister said that the total number of critical care patients who were being provided oxygen had reached 5,360 on Thursday.
"This is a 57 per cent more than the peak in June 2020," he said, adding that so far this increase had been handled due to "proactively building capacity of the entire system from oxygen production to beds".
"Total oxygen production operational capacity in Pakistan last year was 487 tonnes per day. It has been increased to 798 tonnes," said Umar, adding that actual production had increased from 465 tonnes last June to 725 tonnes currently.
"We also imported 19,200 oxygen cylinders last year to ensure distribution."
He stated that because of the steps taken by the federal and provincial governments the tight oxygen supply situation seen last June was not being witnessed again, despite an increase of more than 2,000 critical patients requiring oxygen compared to the previous peak in June.
"Continuing to build [oxygen] capacity, in yesterday's National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) [session] it was decided to import 6,000 tonnes of oxygen, 5,000 cylinders and 20 cryogenic tanks."
The federal minister stated that this "proactive decision-making" had helped Pakistan avoid the kind of situation being witnessed in other countries.
"[The] bedrock of this proactive decision-making has been a data-based forward-looking analytical approach, [a] nationally coordinated effort with a whole of the nation approach and [the] hard work of dedicated teams who have continued to steer the effort through this difficult challenge."
However, he cautioned that the "challenge is not over and is in fact is continuing to increase".
He added that the need for following precautions and Covid-19 standard operating procedures was "vital at this point in time" and the next few weeks were "critical".
"No system can cope if we allow the disease to spread rapidly."
On Thursday, the NCOC had also decided to shut down the scrap industry of Misri Shah so that oxygen could be diverted to the healthcare sector instead.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan had said on Tuesday that a special NCOC committee was monitoring the oxygen situation in the country and trying to improve it. Asking the public to "trust" decisions taken by the NCOC, he had said the forum was working to increase the capacity of hospitals.
"Existing oxygen plants are being monitored and we are looking at additional plants. The [Pakistan] Steel Mills plant was also talked about so it is being looked at. We have also diverted [oxygen supply] from non-essential industries."
Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar had also said the government was "exploring all options" to arrange additional supplies of oxygen for the country. Azhar had said in a tweet that the ministry of industries had started working with private oxygen manufacturers to enhance production capacity after the pandemic's first wave last year.