Govt mulls over curbs as Covid cases resurge

Published January 16, 2022
A health worker inoculates a student with a dose of Pfizer vaccine at a school in Lahore. — AFP/File
A health worker inoculates a student with a dose of Pfizer vaccine at a school in Lahore. — AFP/File

• Over 4,000 cases in a day after five-month hiatus
• Karachi reports 35pc positivity rate
• Ban on food serving during inter-city bus, air travel
• Sindh plans to keep schools, markets open with strict SOPs

ISLAMABAD: As Pakistan recorded the highest number of coronavirus cases after nearly five months and with positivity rate surging to 8.16 per cent, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Saturday urged the provinces to review the situation and decide about placing restrictions on public gatherings, weddings, schools, restaurants and public transport.

The situation has turned serious particularly in Karachi where Covid-19 positivity rate has surpassed 35pc, far greater than Muzaffarabad’s 11.9pc, Rawalpindi’s 9.94pc, Lahore’s 8.5pc, Islamabad’s 6.95pc, Peshawar’s 5.43pc and Hyderabad’s 5.12pc.

The federating and administrative units have been asked to immediately survey healthcare facilities to ascertain the availability of oxygenated beds, oxygen stocks and reserves, while a meeting of health and education ministers has been called on January 17 to review non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) in the wake of the rising curve.

The NCOC in its meeting decided to recommend a ban on in-flight meals and serving of snacks on public transport with effect from Monday. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) was asked to ensure wearing of facemasks and compliance with other standard operating procedures (SOPs) during flights as well as at all airports.

According to an NCOC statement, the forum discussed the current situation, disease prevalence and proposed NPIs in the wake of rising disease trends in the country, especially in urban centres. The forum decided to extensively engage with the provinces, especially with the Sindh government, for necessary measures to curb the rising trend, it stated.

In the past one day, the country recorded as many as 4,286 new cases and four more deaths while 709 patients were in critical care. The latest figure is close to the one reported on August 25 when the NCOC recorded 4,563 new cases.

Karachi’s contribution to the overall new infections across the country, however, dropped from 80pc to 56pc in a day, as 2,816 cases were reported in the city on Friday compared to 2,404 reported on Saturday.

In Karachi, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah chaired a meeting of the provincial task force on coronavirus and decided to continue to allow educational, social and business activities but with strict implementation of Covid-related SOPs.

It was decided that government officials found without facemasks would be fined equal to the amount of their one-day remuneration. It was decided to make wearing of facemasks mandatory at public places and private offices. The chief minister also directed the administration to ensure that vaccination certificates were checked and unvaccinated individuals were barred from entering restaurants, markets and marriage halls.

Health officials informed the chief minister that there was no pressure on hospitals at present, as Covid-19 patients were recovering fast and mortality rate was as low as 1.6pc.

To evaluate and suggest a new set of NPIs focusing the education sector, public gatherings, marriage ceremonies, indoor/ outdoor dining and transport sector, the NCOC decided to call a meeting of provincial health and education ministers on Monday. The NCOC asked the federating units to take strict measures against violators of existing SOPs specially facemask wearing and to ensure enforcement of obligatory vaccination regime.

The NCOC also directed all relevant quarters to fast-track vaccination drive and ramp up efforts to achieve vaccination targets.

According to the NCOC, 166,837,089 doses of vaccine have been administered. As many as 101,457,925 people have received at least one dose of vaccine and 76,649,649 people have become fully vaccinated.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2022

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