Amid rapid rise in Covid-19 cases — fuelled by more infectious and potentially more lethal UK variant of coronavirus across the country — the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) on Wednesday said that it will consider locking down major cities.
Pakistan recorded 5,499 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, taking the Covid-19 tally to 772,381.
The country’s death toll climbed to 16,600 after 147 patients succumbed to the disease during the last 24 hours. Most deaths occurred in Punjab followed by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).
According to a statement, the NCOC’s session, chaired by Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar, was briefed on the alarming and rapid spread of the third wave of Covid-19.
During a news conference following the meeting, Umar rang alarm bells for citizens by saying “the country is days away from having to take serious measures if the Covid-19 situation continues on the same trajectory”.
“This is the last chance to break the chain of daily Covid cases,” the NCOC chief asserted.
“If the Covid-19 trajectory continues in the same path then strict restrictions would have to be imposed in which major cities could be placed under a lockdown,” the minister warned.
He urged citizens to take the pandemic seriously and follow the Covid-19 protocols for their sake as well as for those around them. “Otherwise the ‘ultimate step’ will be taken to curb the spread of the virus.”
The NCOC chief also warned that most Covid-19 related deaths would occur in the current week.
“Ramazan was supposed to be a month of religious practice. But we are picking up bodies of people who died of Covid-19,” the minister lamented.
While sharing current statistics, the minister said that oxygen bed occupancy was 30 per cent in the third wave compared to in the first wave. He also said that most major cities were using ventilators at 80 per cent capacity.
“About 90 per cent of an oxygen supply chain is being used,” Umar said, adding that these numbers would only increase and put more pressure on the country’s healthcare system if people do not come to terms with the seriousness of the situation.
The NCOC statement said that pressure is mounting on health care facilities across the country with an increase of 4 to 5 thousand cases daily. “Hospital admissions and bulk requirements of the oxygenated bed have increased manifolds,” it added.
According to NCOC, 91% of oxygen produced in the country is being already consumed and a major share was going to the hospitals.
It regretted that masses were not taking the situation seriously and standard operating procedures (SOPs) were being violated across the board.
“Situation is escalating fast, if the spread prevails, the NCOC will consider locking down major cities,” it warned.
The NCOC emphasised on provincial administrations to ensure implementation of the SOPs.