LAHORE: Data released by the provincial health department reveals that over 13,000 new cases of pink eye were reported during the last 24 hours (Tuesday) across the province.

More than 40,000 pink eye cases were reported during the past seven days in Punjab, according to the report. Overall, in September so far, 86,133 cases of pink eye have been reported in the province.

The Bahawalpur district leads the list with 16,744 reported cases, followed by Faisalabad with 10,022 and Lahore with 7,538 cases.

Medical experts fear a spike in the number of cases in the coming days, as evident from the daily reports of new patients.

The report states that Dera Ghazi Khan reported 3,998 cases, Gujranwala 3,834, Multan 3,311, Sheikhpura 3,027, Layyah 2,223, Norowal 2,843, Sialkot 2,646, Muzaffargarh 2,097, Kasur 2,424, and Khanewal reported 2,066 pink eye cases.

Schools to reopen on Monday

Similarly, 12 other districts reported more than 1,000 cases of pink eye each during the month of September.

According to the report, the province has been averaging 13,000 new cases every day, with Bahawalpur topping the list with 3,878 patients complaining of pink eye infection during the last 24 hours, followed by Faisalabad with 1,791 and Multan with 1,208.

It is evident from the cases that the outbreak of pink eye infection has been ignored by the Punjab health authorities in terms of preventive measures. This is particularly alarming, given that the number of cases has doubled since August when a total of 47,205 patients complained of infection across the province.

The Punjab government has finally taken the issue seriously in September, and the ongoing last week of this month has seen an alarming surge in reported cases, prompting the education and health departments to implement emergency measures to further curtail the outbreak.

Following this grave situation, the Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department Punjab issued a notification on Wednesday, directing state-run hospitals across the province to grant leave to all staff members, including doctors, nurses, and paramedics, who are suffering from pink eye infections.

This measure aims to minimise the physical interaction of affected patients with other employees.

The same directive will be applied to all staff members of the health department and other wings, according to the notification.

SCHOOLS CLOSED: The Punjab government announced on Wednesday the closure of all public and private schools in the province for four days due to the outbreak of conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye.

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the transparent membrane that lines the eyelid and eyeball. The disease has been rapidly spreading across Punjab, with state-run hospitals in the province reporting 500-600 cases.

The highest number of infections has been reported in Lahore, affecting people of all age groups.

Many school-going children have been complaining of eye infections, and there are reports that school administrations are allowing students to stay home as soon as they contract the virus.

Medical experts have noted that pink eye is spreading rapidly in densely populated cities where people are exposed to unfriendly environments, such as factories, bazaars, markets, and plazas.

The Punjab School Education Department (SED) issued a notification about the closure of all public and private schools from Sept 28 to Oct 1.

The notification states, “All schools shall reopen on Monday (Oct 2) and shall observe the SOPs issued to curb the spread of conjunctivitis (pink eye) infection.”

Caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi visited the Government Girls Higher Secondary School on Ravi Road, expressing concern upon witnessing children affected by conjunctivitis in the classrooms.

Mr Naqvi announced a statewide holiday for schools in Punjab on Thursday.

He said schools would also remain closed on Saturday, the day following Eid Milad, and he hoped that a four-day break for the children would reduce the spread of conjunctivitis, with the situation anticipated to improve by Monday.

The CM observed that in every class, six to seven students were affected by conjunctivitis, and even some teachers had been infected.

He also noticed that the school’s computer lab housed outdated, non-functional computer systems dating back to 2009, and the classrooms lacked adequate lighting and fans. He ordered the purchase of new computers and an increase in the number of lights and fans in the classrooms. He emphasised the need for a fresh coat of paint and the assurance of basic amenities in the classrooms.

Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2023

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