'Comfortable situation': Yasmin Rashid credits strict SOPs implementation for decrease in Punjab cases
Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid on Sunday cited the strict implementation of coronavirus standard operating procedures (SOPs) as the reason behind declining case numbers in the province, saying "we are in a very comfortable situation at the moment."
Addressing a press conference in Rawalpindi, she said the number of Covid-19 patients who were being discharged and sent home was now greater than the number of patients being admitted to hospitals.
"Today, the total cases reported are  compared to 4,000 per day, a month ago. You will start to realise that the number of cases has fallen because there was very strict implementation of SOPs and a complete lockdown in the last week of Ramazan."
Rashid said the testing capacity of the province had also been increased after concerns were expressed that fewer cases might be reported due low testing numbers, adding that the capacity would be maintained between 28,000 to 30,000 tests every day.
The health minister said the positivity rate was higher than eight per cent in the following cities and districts: Rajanpur, Layyah, Okara, Pakpattan, Sahiwal, Muzaffargarh, Vehari, Khanewal, Chakwal, Gujrat, Nankana Sahab, Khushab, Rahim Yar Khan and Lodhra.
The positivity rate in districts and cities besides these was less than 8pc while the positivity rate in Rawalpindi had dropped to 3.5pc, she added, terming it "good news".
'Wherever stricter SOPs have been enforced, the number of cases have reduced," she said.
Oxygenated beds and ventilators
Giving an update on the number of oxygenated beds and ventilators currently in use in Punjab, Rashid said out of 2,922 oxygenated beds in District Headquarters Hospitals (DHQs) in the province, only 502 were occupied while only 11 out of 111 ventilators were occupied.
"We have 2,818 oxygenated beds in teaching hospitals, of which 1,084 are vacant. As far as ventilators are concerned, 790 were dedicated for Covid patients, of which 447 are vacant.
"In Lahore, which has always remained the epicentre, more than 30pc of the 927 oxygenated beds are vacant and 130 vents out of 284 are lying vacant. At this time, the situation is much better [than before]," she added.
Rashid shared that the Punjab government had bought 1,000 Actemra injections previously and was buying more than 1,300 more to distribute for free among all treatment centres. She iterated that coronavirus patients were being treated free of cost and if a hospital charged them for it, they could complain on the government helplines.
The health minister said 2,000 beds had been added to the province's capacity while the number of ventilators and high dependency units was also increased after the pandemic started. The health department would now provide all major teaching hospitals with oxygen generators, she added.
"All the work for procurement has been done, we are trying to give them to every hospital next month," she said.
Emphasising the need to follow precautionary measures, Rashid said, "we have to live with the pandemic for a while. It has not gone anywhere."
There are two important steps people could take to protect themselves — physical precautions such as wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and not leaving homes unnecessarily — and getting vaccinated, said the health minister.
"Sometimes people say there is no pandemic and it saddens me. Ask those people who have lost their loved ones. You see the pictures and videos from India, people are lying on roads waiting for oxygen. If God has blessed us, why are we [ungrateful]?" she questioned.
"There is only one request for the public: take precautions. It will be very difficult for me to come and get you to wear a mask. If you are not careful, our problems can rise."
Rashid said more than 2.8 million people in the province had been vaccinated against the coronavirus so far and Punjab was ahead of all other provinces in this regard.
She shared that 128,000 vaccine doses were administered province-wide a day earlier against the target of 140,000 given by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC).
Four big vaccination centres are operating in Rawalpindi currently while six more would be added next week, she said. Vaccination facilities were available for frontline health workers at all teaching hospitals, she added.
The health minister said that three Chinese vaccines — Sinopharm, SinoVac and CanSinoBio — and AstraZeneca's vaccine were being administered while the province would also start procuring vaccines next month from the Rs1.5 billion allocated by Chief Minister Usman Buzdar.
Giving the latest update, Rashid said 37pc of people aged above 70, 46pc of people over 60, 37pc of people over 50, 19pc of people over 40 and 5pc of people over 30 had been vaccinated.
"I am saying again, the people most vulnerable [to the virus] are those above 50 and we have to vaccinate 100pc of them," she said, urging people to encourage the elderly in their families to get vaccinated.
Punjab recorded 914 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, marking the second time this week the province reported less than 1,000 daily infections after confirming 898 on Friday.
The provincial tally of infections has risen to 333,971.
Meanwhile, another 29 people succumbed to the virus in Punjab, increasing the death toll to 9,768.