Planning Minister Asad Umar urged the people on Thursday to take precautions and follow Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) to control the “rising spread” of the pandemic, as the number of newly reported coronavirus cases touched the highest level in 70 days.
The minister sounded alarm in a tweet after the National Command and Control Centre (NCOC) reported 908 new cases of the deadly virus during the last 24 hours, raising the number of total active Covid-19 cases in Pakistan to 11,695. The virus also claimed the lives of 16 more people.
“After more than 70 days the national covid positivity ratio was higher than 3% yesterday. Ncoc has tightened restrictions on some high risk public activities. However, the rising spread of the disease can only be controlled if people believe in the need for precautions,” Umar, who heads the NCOC, wrote.
On Wednesday, the NCOC – the nerve centre of the government’s unified effort to control the pandemic – noted that the spread of the virus in 11 major cities. The forum made it mandatory to wear face masks in public places.
Speaking on Thursday, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan warned that more restrictions could be imposed next week given a rapid increase in the number of Covid positivity. “Hard decisions will have to be made next week,” he told a media briefing.
“The number of coronavirus cases in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Karachi is increasing alarmingly. If the cases increased, it will be due to the internal situation in Pakistan,” he said. More restrictions may be imposed next week, based on the data,” he added.
The new Covid cases, referred to as the second wave, come as the opposition is out holding public rallies against the government. Dr Faisal Sultan said that in view of political meetings and rallies, new SOPs would be issued soon.
Responding to a question about vaccine trials, the special assistant said that Pakistan had started testing four different vaccines – two developed by Chinese firms and two by Western countries. “The trial is expected to be completed in two months,” he added.
When asked about the possible future scenario if the cases rose, Dr Faisal Sultan showed optimism. He said there would be no shortage of ventilators like in the past. He also said arrangements for the funds were being made for the purchase of vaccine, whenever it was available.
Earlier, the NCOC said in its daily update that 29,449 tests were conducted across the country on Wednesday, including 9,150 in Sindh, 10,371 in Punjab, 3,615 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), 4,810 in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), 714 in Balochistan, 313 in G-B, and 476 in AJK.
It added that the total active Covid-19 cases were recorded 11,695 as 908 more people tested positive for the virus during the last 24 hours, while 16 patients, who were under treatment in hospitals died on Wednesday.
Since the pandemic outbreak, a total of 331,108 cases were detected so far, including 3,938 in AJK, 15,876 in Balochistan, 4,211 in G-B, 19,454 in ICT, 39,277 in K-P, 103,587 in Punjab and 144,765 in Sindh. “Around 312,638 people — more than 90% —have recovered from the disease,” it added.
The latest data put the overall death toll since the disease emerged in the country in February this year at 6,775, including 2,611 in Sindh (seven on Wednesday); 2,347 in Punjab (five on Wednesday); 1,273 in K-P (two on Wednesday); 215 in ICT (one on Wednesday); 149 in Balochistan, 92 in G-B and 88 in AJK (one on Wednesday).
With input from APP