The second wave of the coronavirus has hit Pakistan hard, with many top politicians, celebrities, and judges testing positive for the virus as winter begins across the country. According to figures released by the National Command and Operations Centre, 2,050 new infections were confirmed across the country in the past 24 hours.
Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah has also fallen prey to the virus, along with many politicians from Sindh. PTI leader Amir Liaqat Hussain, who is also a famous entertainer, tested positive for the virus as well and is currently undergoing treatment at a local hospital. Many journalists and judges have been hit as well.
Journalist Zarrar Khuhro tweeted last week that he had tested positive for the virus. Prominent anchor Moeed Pirzada caught the virus too but has since recovered. The former chief justice of Peshawar High Court Waqar Seth died from the virus last week. The chief justice of Azad Kashmir Raja Akram has tested positive for the virus as well.
Mild symptoms so far but very much there
— Zarrar Khuhro (@ZarrarKhuhro) November 15, 2020
Alarming rise in the number of virus cases
The second wave of the virus in Pakistan appears to be more lethal than the first one, with deaths from the virus surging and the infection rate rising fast as well. The total number of virus cases in the country rose to 361,082 on Monday, with 33 people reported dead from the virus, taking the total number of virus-related deaths in Pakistan to 7,193.
The total number of active cases in the country on Monday was 29,055, according to NCOC, while the number of recovered stood at 324,834. With 29,278 tests conducted across Pakistan, the positivity rate has reached 7%, an alarmingly high number. The second wave of the virus, medical experts say, has only begun.
Pakistan on Monday imposed a ban on “all kinds of” public rallies in an attempt to stem the rising tide of coronavirus cases across the country. Prime Minister Imran Khan, in a televised address to the nation, warned that if the COVID-19 cases continued to surge with the current pace, the country’s hospitals will be running out of space.
Govt may increase the duration of winter vacations: PM Imran
The government has also banned indoor weddings, allowing only out-door ceremonies with not more than 300 people. Khan said the government is also considering announcing the winter vacations before the schedule, and a decision in this regard will be taken next week.
“If corona[virus] cases are [found] on the rise because of the schools, then the government may increase the duration of winter vacations,” he maintained. According to Khan, the number of coronavirus cases have soared four times over the past 10 days.
Authorities, in an attempt to contain the fresh wave of infections, had already reimposed “smart” lockdown restrictions, including closure of cinemas and theaters, and a ban on indoor weddings and public gatherings.
Will education institutes be closed again?
There is a general consensus among people on social media to close down educational institutions as SOPS are not being followed properly by institutions and the country has witnessed a surge in COVID cases. PM Imran said in October: “I urge everyone to wear face masks in public to avoid a spike in cases.”
In Pakistan, the earliest case recorded was in February, almost 2 months after the virus was first reported in China in December 2019. Despite immediate lockdowns the COVID cases trajectory saw a steep rise from April till June/July, which then started declining after efforts from the government and smart lockdowns.
The highest number of cases recorded in a day in Pakistan was on June 14th with 6,825 cases and 81 deaths. The lowest since then has been August 30th with 213 reported cases and 6 deaths in a day alone. August and September saw minimal cases compared to previous months but the cases have been gradually increasing since October.
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However, the government has decided to let educational institutes stay open. “Schools, colleges and universities remain open. The Government will continue to prioritise the wellbeing and long-term futures of our young people and will not be closing core educational facilities,” an announcement yesterday said.
Murad Raas, the Punjab Education Minister said on Sunday: “Tomorrow (November 16th) is the meeting of all Provincial Education Ministers to discuss the prevailing condition of COVID 19. In my opinion, we should focus on a Smart Lockdown rather than across the board shutdown of Schools.”
Following, the lockdown model of the European countries, it is likely that the government may not close down educational institutions. The NCOC is likely to meet again later this month to make a decision about the closure of schools in Pakistan for the next few months, official sources have told GVS.
Winter may worsen virus situation
The National Institute of Health (NIH) last month advised health authorities to declare high alert due to the possibility of huge spikes of seven diseases including COVID-19 during the winter season from October till February. The country all over has seen a drop in temperatures with frequent rains. On Sunday it rained in the northern parts of the country.
Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) expects more rain in the coming days in the northern regions of the country including Islamabad, upper and central Punjab, Gilgit-Baltistan, Kashmir and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Health experts and researchers have warned the COVID situation to worsen in the winter season.
Countries with lower temperatures have already seen higher cases per day. On 15th November, UK saw 24,962 new cases. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced earlier this month that pubs, restaurants, gyms and non-essential shops will be close for four weeks all through November. Leisure and entertainment venues, including gyms, will also closed.
GVS News Desk with additional input from other sources