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Govt mulls options to stem second wave of Covid


KARACHI:

The federal government has decided to gradually implement various measures to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus after a rise in the new cases has been witnessed across the country in recent weeks, mainly because of non-implementation of the standard operating procedures (SOPs).

The government has a clear-cut policy on the pandemic: saving lives along with keeping the wheels of the economy moving by following the Covid-19 SOPs”. But if the things went out of control, strict measures could be introduced, sources have said.

The sources said that the federal government was working with the provincial authorities to enforce the SOPs to control the pandemic spread but if the SOPs were flouted continuously and the situation went out of control, strict measures would be used by the federal authorities in phases.

“In case the Covid cases increased further, the government, in the first phase, may impose mini-micro or the micro lockdowns in consultation with the provinces and other stakeholders,” said a federal government source.

“However, if there is a dangerous increase in the level of coronavirus cases in any particular area or the city or the district and a complete disregard for the government directives is witnessed, the next option of complete lockdown can be used,” the sources added.

At present, the government is trying to implement Covid-19 SOPs across the country through an awareness campaign. The authorities are monitoring the situation closely and appealing to the public to follow the SOPs.”

Coronavirus, which started from Chinese city of Wuhan in central Hubei province. The first case of the disease emerged in Pakistan in February this year. Later the pandemic spread across the country. However, the government was able to control the contagion by August.

The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) – the nerve centre of the government’s joint efforts to control the virus – has expressed fear of a second wave of the disease, after registering a rise in new cases in recent weeks.

At present, political activities are also increasing in the country. Rallies are being held by the opposition’s anti-government movement. These large public gatherings could potentially lead to the spread of the epidemic, therefore, it is necessary that these rallies implement the SOPs.

The sources said that the federal government, through the Tiger Force, would also launch awareness campaign across the country in case the pandemic escalated. The members of this force will work with the administration to implement the SOPs.

The federal government is currently reviewing the situation and important decisions are expected soon. “People must follow the SOPs,” Federal Minister Asad Umar told Express. “The government is trying to control Covid, while keeping the economy running.”

40% increase

Umar, who heads the NCOC, requested the masses to follow the precautionary measures issued by the NCOC. “The federal government will take any decision in consultation with the relevant authorities,” he added.

Earlier on Friday, the NCOC said in a statement that the average Covid positivity rate had risen by 40% in the last four days. It also expressed concern over the increases in the number of hospital admissions and deaths from the deadly virus.

During a morning session of the NCOC, health officials presented Covid related data. The forum noted that Muzafarabad, Hyderabad, Karachi and Gilgit have a higher positivity ratio compared with other areas of the country.

The Punjab chief secretary told the meeting that the positivity ratio in the province had increased to 1.33% from 0.92% a few weeks ago. The ratio of deaths in Punjab had also risen to 6 compared with an average of 1.6 on September 1.

Pakistan’s current case fatality stands at 2.06% against the global percentage of 2.72. Among the total number of national cases males constitute 71% of the death toll from the disease, of which 76% are over the age of 50, according to the data shared at the NCOC forum.

Earlier on Wednesday, the NCOC had warned against return of lockdowns if the SOPs continued to be violated. It asked the provinces to ensure that SOPs were implemented and special attention was paid to high risk sectors like transport, markets, wedding halls, restaurants and public gatherings.



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