Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid shared on Sunday that the coronavirus situation in the province was improving, citing lower positivity rates and bed occupancy.
Addressing a press conference in Lahore, she said that over the last week, the number of people going home from hospitals after recovering from the coronavirus had increased.
"People being admitted to hospitals [are fewer] than the number of patients being discharged. The graph is slowly coming down from the plateau," she said.
Only three districts in the province — Multan, Rahim Yar Khan and Khanewal — now had a positivity rate higher than five per cent, according to Rashid, while the positivity rate in Lahore, considered a coronavirus hotspot previously, had reduced to 1.5pc.
Giving details about the occupancy rates of beds and ventilators, the minister said 2,897 beds were allocated for coronavirus patients in primary care hospitals of which 410 were currently occupied while only nine ventilators out of a total of 112 were in use.
The highest occupancy rate of ventilated beds was in Multan (67pc) followed by Lahore at 38pc, Bahawalpur at 32pc and Rawalpindi at 16pc, she shared, adding that high positivity rates were now being reported by districts located in the south of the province.
"The bed occupancy rate has significantly reduced in other districts. The bed occupancy rate in Gujranwala, where we saw a lot of [problems] last month, is 20pc."
Rashid said there had also been a "marked reduction" in the bed occupancy of high dependency units (HDUs). Giving a breakdown of the rates, she said it was 54pc in Multan while in the rest of the province, it was below 40pc.
Terming the latest occupancy rates as "welcome news", she cited strict implementation of coronavirus standard operating procedures (SOPs) and the week-long lockdown before Eidul Fitr for the improved situation.
Only six areas in Multan with a population of 736 people were currently under smart lockdown, she said. All non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) decided by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) would remain in place, she added.
These include a ban on all commercial activities after 8pm, observing Saturdays and Sundays as safe days, ban on indoor weddings while outdoor weddings can be held with 150 guests, ban on indoor dining while outdoor dining and takeaway is allowed, public transport operating at 50pc capacity and a complete ban on sports.
Rashid said the provincial government was reopening swimming pools while tourism has also been reopened subject to SOPs. The NCOC would take a decision on reopening cinemas and theatres next week, she added.
She urged people to continue following SOPs, saying that if people did two things — properly maintained SOPs and got vaccinated — then the government would be able to "control the pandemic" within the next three to four months.
Adequate vaccines stock
The minister stressed that the government had adequate stocks of vaccines. She clarified, however, that the first dose of only one vaccine would be administered at all vaccination centres at a time.
"The vaccines available to the government are Sinopharm, SinoVac, AstraZeneca and CanSino. People often times come to us and say we want a [particular] vaccine. Vaccine of only one kind will be administered at a time. Right now, the administration of SinoVac has started at all our centres. Previously, AstraZeneca [was being administered].
"Only second dose of Sinopharm is being administered," she said, adding that the government has 1.4 million vaccines in stock.
Rashid said the "good news" was that the formulation and packaging of the Chinese CanSino vaccine was being done at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Islamabad.
"A very large amount is being produced in our labs. In three months, we will be in a position to produce our vaccines," she added.
Over the last 24 hours, 696 new coronavirus cases were reported in Punjab while 22 more people succumbed to the virus. The province's case tally has reached 339,073 while its death toll stands at 9,982.
The province's cases have been declining with less than 1,000 daily infections reported for the last eight days.