ISLAMABAD: While the number of critical patients of Covid-19 has surged to 5,304, consumption of oxygen in the health sector has doubled in last four weeks due to which 66 per cent of the country’s oxygen production has been diverted to health sector.

On the other hand, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Tuesday lifted coronavirus-related restrictions in 18 districts and decided to reopen educational institutions from Sept 16. However, it decided to continue restrictions in six districts of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) till Sept 22.

As many as 2,580 more people were infected and 78 could not survive in a single day, according to the NCOC data shared on Tuesday.

In a related development, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has been directed to take action against the elements involved in preparing fake vaccination certificates.

An NCOC official said Pakistan’s total production of oxygen was around 750 tonnes and presently over 500 tonnes were going to health sector. “Just four weeks ago around 250 tonnes were being consumed by health sector. In other words, 66pc of the total production has been diverted to health sector,” he said.

Educational institutions to reopen from 16th; oxygen use in health sector doubles in four weeks

Replying to a question, the official said oxygen was used in several industries, including metal refining, fabrication processes, glass manufacturing and chemicals.

“As public health is the first priority, in case of increase in requirement, we will divert most of the oxygen to health sector,” he said.

Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar, who also heads the NCOC, also said the demand for oxygen had doubled in last few weeks.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has expressed concern over reports of shortage of oxygen.

“PMA is deeply concerned over the news telecast by section of the national media that shortage of oxygen supply has been occurring in Karachi and Interior Sindh. Due to this shortage the suppliers are increasing the prices of oxygen intentionally to gain more profits which is very unethical. This shortage of liquid oxygen at hospitals could create alarming situation. The paucity of few minutes could put thousands of patients’ lives in danger. Although at present there is not burden of Covid-19 patients at hospitals but it can go higher at any time because we are always reluctant to follow SOPs regarding Covid-19,” PMA Secretary General Dr Qaisar Sajjad said in a statement. “Oxygen therapy is very vital in treatment of Covid-19 and also in other serious patients. PMA requests government to take notice of the situation and make it sure that supply of liquid oxygen to hospitals may not be interrupted and continuous supply at reasonable prices should be maintained at every cost because this shortage if not controlled could create human disaster in near future in the country.”

According to a document of the NCOC, available with Dawn, a meeting, chaired by Asad Umar on Tuesday, took stock of the disease situation in the country, daily hospital admissions and critical care occupancy vis-à-vis requirement of oxygen. The meeting decided to relax restrictions in 18 cities and continue to enforce stringent non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) in the six high disease prevalence districts. Five districts of Punjab, in which restrictions will remain enforced, are Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan, Sargodha and Gujrat. Bannu is the only district of KP in which restrictions will remain enforced.

On Sept 4, the NCOC had enforced restrictions in 24 districts of Punjab and KP and Islamabad. The restrictions included a ban on indoor gatherings, closure of educational institutions and indoor gyms and ban on intercity transport. Initially restrictions were imposed till Sept 12 but were later extended till 15.

“All types of education institutes countrywide will follow staggered opening (50pc attendance, 3 days a week) from 16th September onwards. NPIs for high disease prevalence districts will remain enforced from 16 to 22 Sept and review will be carried out in NCOC on 21st Sept. NPIs for rest of the country will remain enforced from 16th to 30th Sept and review will be carried out on 28th,” the document said.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2021

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