ISLAMABAD: The capital city witnessed the highest number of Covid-19 cases in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, after 1,131 people were reported to be infected with the virus on Thursday.

In Rawalpindi, 255 new cases were reported on the same day. The twin cities recorded a total of five deaths from the virus over the last 24 hours – two in Islamabad and three in the garrison city.

Moreover, at least eight educational institutions – two in the capital and six in Rawalpindi – were sealed following surfacing of fresh Covid cases.

In view of the worsening situation, the district administrations of both cities have decided to impose restrictions on indoor dining at all restaurants, starting today (Friday).

Ban on indoor dining from today, DC says restrictions may get harsher if situation continues to worsen

In Rawalpindi, a ban has been placed on large gatherings and contact sports from Jan 24 to Jan 31, while restrictions on weddings will remain in place until Feb 15.

Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat told Dawn that the restrictions being imposed to curb the spread of the virus may become more strict in the coming days if cases continue rise.

“There is no other option left except smart lockdown if this state of affairs continues,” Mr Shafqaat said.

He said at least 11 areas in the capital had been designated ‘hotspots’ as they each had over 100 active cases, adding that smart lockdowns will be imposed in areas having 100 or more active cases in close vicinity, he added.

The G-7/4 campus of Riphah International University and the Beaconhouse Potohar Campus in Soan Garden were also sealed after Covid-19 outbreaks among teachers and students.

Meanwhile, Rawalpindi District Health Authority spokesperson Dr Waqar Ahmed told Dawn that the positivity rate in the garrison city had reached 14.22 percent and the city had witnessed a daily rise of over 200 cases after an eight-month gap.

He said that a total of 1,792 samples were collected, of which 255 tested positive. The number of active patients in Rawalpindi district currently stands at 1,210 active patients, with as many as 49 patients in hospital and 1,161 isolating at home.

The educational institutes sealed on Thursday included the Government Girls High School at Dheri Hassanabad, the Government High School Khyaban-i-Sir Syed, Government High School Pind Nasrala, Government Islamia School Murree Road, Government High School Dhoke Hassu and Government Associate College for Women Satellite Town B-block.

Mr Ahmed said the health authority was working to complete the testing of close contacts of those who had tested positive.

Separately, in a report regarding adherence to Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) in the country’s health facilities, a report by the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) for the period of Dec 2021 to Jan 2022 has revealed that their enforcement was absent from at least 75 per cent of all such facilities.

Highlighting widespread patterns of noncompliance of the SOPs among the general public, the report states that when the number of cases started to plummet in the last quarter of the year 2021, the level of seriousness towards SOPs compliance also decreased.

The report predicts that when challenged by the fifth wave, pandemic management capacity across Pakistan belied an under-equipped health care system that, the report said, would struggle to cope with the increase in hospitalisation.

Based on the assessment, Fafen has called for reinstating some of the measures that have previously worked in slowing down the spread of the infection, including stringent compliance of SOPs in offices, educational institutions, and other public spaces, as well as reduced attendance in offices providing necessary services.

Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2022

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