PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa recorded 23 more deaths from coronavirus and 173 new cases on Saturday amid claims by the authorities that the lockdown restrictions have helped reduce the virus-related fatalities and incidence.
However, officials said it was hard to ascertain the correct quantum of the virus positivity rate due to a decline in the collection of swabs for Covid-19 testing.
They said in the last few days, there had been a big decline in testing showing the cases undercounted and the picture of infection not recorded properly.
“Schools, markets, tourist spots, hospital OPDs and transport vehicles have been closed, so we are doing less testing than usual. However, the ratio of tests will go up on Monday when the activities resume,” an official said.
The health department conducted less than 4,000 tests during the 24 hours.
Officials say swab collection for testing also reduces
According to its report, Peshawar, the hardest-hit district, recorded 16 coronavirus-related deaths and 64 new cases.
One death was reported in Mardan, Swat, Upper Dir, Bajaur, Abbottabad, Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan each.
Swabi and Swat detected 13 fresh cases each.
The province has so far recorded 3,766 deaths from the virus. The number of registered patients stood at 126,787 and 114,783 of them recovered, including 540 during the 24 hours. The province has a total 8,238 active cases, mostly in Peshawar, Swat and Mardan, the report said.
The health officials said Mardan, where the district administration imposed strict lockdown, had recorded a slump in coronavirus cases and deaths.
They said the virus positivity rate, which had surged to 38 per cent a fortnight ago in the district, had come down to eight per cent.
According to them, the health department is still struggling to deal with the virus in the high-infected districts of Peshawar, Mardan, Charsadda, Swabi, Nowshera, Swat and Abbottabad.
The officials said the level of testing would be scaled up in the districts to know the level of the pandemic for appropriate measures.
They said at present, they couldn’t say that lockdown had worked in lowering down the cases because of lesser testing.
“We plan to increase testing to at least 8,000 per day so that we know about the exact situation. The situation with regard to availability of Covid-19 has also improved as we have 40 per cent empty Covid-19 beds, which can be used for hospitalisation of patients,” an official said.
He said the impact of lockdown would come to the fore only after more tests were conducted.
“The department is also waiting for the resumption of all activities,” he said.
The officials said the lockdown during and before Eidul Fitr was effective as the army, administration and police had closed markets in cities but Eid festivals were held in rural areas as the administration mostly focused on cities.
“We are waiting the impact of lockdown restrictions. All medical superintendents, district health officers and directors of the medical teaching institutions have been directed to escalate diagnosis of the suspected people so we can plan our next strategy,” an official said.
He said vaccination along with enforcement of social distancing rule, hand hygiene and face mask were required to break chain of the virus’ transmission.
“The process of vaccination is in progress with more people coming to the centres that before but adherence top SoPs hold the key to our success,” he said.
The officials said the province didn’t have shortage of vaccines and testing kits.
They, however, said the people should follow precautionary measures to stay safe from the virus, whose third wave was extremely virulent.
Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2021