PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has extended health emergency for another three months to be able to deal with any immediate threat of Covid-19.

Despite downtrend in cases and mortalities due to the pandemic, emergency has been extended till June in view of the reports of new Covid-19 variants being detected in many countries around the world, according to officials.

The health department had invoked Public Health (Surveillance and Response) Act, 2017 in February 2020 for the first time to pave way for speedy procurement of medical and surgical supplies to deal with the threat posed by the outbreak of Covid-19. The health emergency was then extended from time to time.

The director-general health services, Dr Shaheen Afridi, told Dawn that Covid-19 infections came down drastically due to which they started procurement of personal protective equipments (PPEs), medicines and other items through normal procedures. “However, after consultation with World Health Organisation and Centre for Disease Control, US, we have requested the government to further extend emergency for three months,” she added.

DG Dr Shaheen says cases are on decline but pandemic is not over

She said that cases were coming down but the pandemic was not over. “We continue testing as part of surveillance to know the quantum of cases and take action in the areas, which are recording patients,” she said. She added that extension of emergency was requested to cope with any emergency situation.

Dr Shaheen said that different variants of the virus were still being reported from many countries due to which they were taking precautionary measures. “Risk is still there,” she added.

She said that emergency was extended from time to time to relax normal procedures of procurement and resource availability to help the relevant authorities to take quick measures unlike normal procedure that took longer to procure medicines, etc.

Dr Shaheen said that extension of emergency was approved by the chief minister on the recommendation of health department to purchase the required medicines and equipment for the hospitals and at the same time give legal cover to the activities of the administration to strictly enforce adherence to Covid-19 standard operating procedure. It gives legal protection to the measures taken by the administration.

The lockdowns, sealing of shops and limiting gatherings at the markets and ensuring use of face masks, keeping social distancing and washing hands are covered under the emergency law.

Dr Mohammad Arif, the director of expanded programme on immunisation (EPI), when approached, said that vaccination against Covid-19 would continue in Ramzan.

“We are sending teams to the mosques to inoculate people before or after Taraveeh because they are not willing to get the shot at daytime due to fasting. We have enlisted support of ulema to vaccinate more people because they are still at risk of getting infected with the virus,” he said.

He said that their vaccinators were administering shots to about 40,000 people per day and more than 1,000 centres stayed open. He said that situation in some tehsils of North Waziristan, Swabi, Mardan, Nowshera and other districts regarding vaccination was not satisfactory due to which they planned door-to-door campaign after Eidul Fitr.

Dr Arif said that government was in touch with religious scholars, who were helping the vaccinators to immunise people in mosques. “So far, we have given first dose of vaccine to 73 per cent people and second dose to 53 per cent population of the province,” he said.

Meanwhile, the province recorded 22 new Covid-19 cases and zero death on Thursday. A health department report said that 6,322 people had passed away and a total of 219,223 had been reported since onset of the pandemic in the province.

A report prepared by the WHO’s sub-office in Peshawar said that 54 people were admitted in hospitals including five on ventilator while 96 per cent of the infected persons had recovered from the infectious ailment.

Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2022

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