Pakistan in September removed nearly all of its coronavirus-related lockdowns, citing a sharp decline in new infections and deaths over the past month. Volkan Bozkir, president-elect of the United Nations General Assembly, has endorsed the country’s gains in the fight against the pandemic. The country saw the reopening of educational institutions, gyms, restaurants, salons and even wedding halls. While the public was encouraged to follow the SOPs, a majority of the public was confident that the virus had gone for good – or so it seemed.
We are now at a phase where the virus is anticipated to return by virtue of a second wave. Experts and medical practitioners have warned about the implications of this second wave already. What is left to determine is whether the public at large will comply with the safety precautions, SOPs and perhaps even lockdowns.
Second Covid wave under way in Pakistan
Fears of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic starting in the country have come true and the return of strict restrictions to curb the spread of the disease has become inevitable, the prime minister’s aide on health said on Tuesday.
Around 400 to 500 [coronavirus] cases were being reported in the country every day in the country a few weeks ago. This has gone up to 700 to 750 cases per day now,” Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health, Dr Faisal Sultan said at a news conference.
“The [Covid-19] positivity ratio has jumped to 2.5 to 2.75%. The death rate has also increased,” he added. “Citizens are no longer taking precautionary measures even though the pandemic is far from over in the country.”
The assistant claimed that with the beginning of the second coronavirus wave, strict restrictions would need to be imposed again and a plan for this purpose would be chalked out soon. He added that the restrictions would be tightened in the cities where the positivity ratio of the virus was high.
“We cannot allow citizens to visit public places without wearing masks and neglect other guidelines.” The PM’s aide said new recommendations would be presented soon in consultation in all the provinces.“Several plans and recommendations are already being considered to stem the spread of the virus.
The SAPM elaborated that business timings across the country could be reduced in view of the spike in cases. “Business timings that were in place earlier [before the lifting of the restrictions] might be restored again.” Furthermore, he added, fines would be imposed for violating coronavirus standard operating procedures (SOPs).
The government is also planning to set up a hotline so that the citizens could inform the authorities about the violation of coronavirus SOPs. The PM’s aide said restrictions were tough for the people and no government wanted to impose them. “Hopefully, we will beat this [second coronavirus wave] if the people follow guidelines.”
Committee debates on the closure of universities
A virtual meeting of the vice-chancellor’s committee has been convened on Wednesday (today) wherein closing the universities again and disinfecting their premises would be discussed.
The National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) on Covid-19 has recently disclosed that the average positivity rate of the disease had risen by 40%. The national body on the country’s coronavirus response also expressed its concerns over the increasing number of hospital admissions and deaths from the virus. It was also noted that Muzaffarabad, Hyderabad, Karachi and Gilgit have a higher positivity ratio among other areas across the country.
The NCOC had warned against another lockdown if the SOPs continued to be violated. The chief secretaries of all provinces were asked to ensure that SOPs were implemented strictly and special attention was paid to high risk sectors including transport, markets, wedding halls, restaurants and public gatherings.
According to the NCOC daily update issued on Tuesday, 773 more people tested positive for Covid-19 in the last 24 hours. The virus also claimed the lives of six more people.