ISLAMABAD: With nine persons reported dead, among them a senior doctor, and 4,027 cases of Covid-19 recorded across the country on Sunday, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) will meet on Monday (today) to deliberate on possible ways to curb the spread of the dreaded disease.
The particularly bad situation obtaining in Karachi has not just hit the city’s general population hard, but also its community of healthcare professionals as up to 500 doctors and paramedics are said to have been infected by coronavirus.
The national positivity rate reached 7.8 per cent, driven mainly by a whopping rate of almost 40pc for Karachi. As per a decision already taken by the NCOC, meals and snacks would not be served in domestic flights and on the buses plying between cities from Monday (today). But other measures aimed at slowing the spread of the disease would likely be finalised during the course of the day.
However, an official of the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) said that proposals for additional restrictions could be deferred a bit as the number of hospitalised people was still under control. On Saturday, the NCOC urged the provinces to review the situation and decide about placing restrictions on public gatherings, weddings, schools, restaurants and transportation.
NCOC to deliberate on the fresh curbs needed
The federating and administrative units were asked to immediately survey healthcare facilities to ascertain the availability of beds with oxygen supply and oxygen stocks. Also a meeting of health and education ministers was summoned to review the non-pharmaceutical interventions required in the wake of the rising disease curve.
In its meeting, the NCOC recommended a ban on in-flight meals and serving of snacks on public vehicles and asked the Civil Aviation Authority 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 meeting also decided to engage extensively with the provincial government, especially that of Sindh, on measures needed to slow down the rising trend.
However, at a meeting of the provincial task force on coronavirus, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Saturday decided to continue to allow educational, social and business activities, but with strict implementation of Covid-related SOPs.
An NHS official pointed out on Sunday that although the number of Covid-19 cases was continuously rising, the number of hospitalised patients was not alarming. “There are 752 patients in critical care across the country today (Sunday) but during the last wave the number of critical patients had surpassed 5,000. If the number of hospitalised patients is not going to increase sharply soon, we can defer the restrictions,” said the official based in Islamabad.
“However, we urge the masses to strictly adhere to the SOPs,” he added. “Now we have reduced the age limit for booster shots to 18, so people should get them vaccinated as vaccine is the best defence against the virus.”
The situation in the industrial and business hub of the country was far from satisfactory on Sunday, however. Not only did a senior paediatrician, Prof Salahuddin Sheikh, succumbed to the disease but an office-bearer of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) said hundreds of healthcare professionals had been infected.
Imran Ayub also contributed to this report from Karachi
Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2022