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November 30, 2020

Punjab health minister warns of strong second wave: Suspend rallies until pandemic is over, Yasmin tells opposition


November 30, 2020

LAHORE: Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid has warned of a strong and severe second wave of corona pandemic in Punjab urging utmost caution until the introduction of new vaccine.

Speaking at a press conference at Chief Minister Secretariat on Sunday, the health minister said that cases that were reduced to less than 100 a day around mid-September, have now increased manifolds. She said 2,979 people had died due to COVID-19 so far in Punjab and in the last 24 hours, 19 people have lost their lives.

Present on the occasion were Special Secretary Specialised Healthcare and Medical Education Department Iqbal Ahmed, Additional Secretary Admin Primary & Secretary Healthcare Department and other officials.

The minister said the government had continuously asked people to follow SOPs in the last few months as the pandemic had not ended. Now a sudden rise in the number of cases has been witnessed. Patients with moderate to severe symptoms are hospitalised.

Currently 997 people are admitted to hospitals out of whom 145 are on ventilators and 475 are on oxygenated beds and 16,204 patients are in Quarantine/Self Isolation.

Healthcare officials are fighting on frontline and 2,638 health members got infected.

The worst affected cities included Lahore, Rawalpindi, Multan, Faisalabad and Gujranwala. In Gujranwala, the Test to Positivity ratio has increased to 4 percent. Around 25 days back, the positivity ratio in Multan reached 31 percent and after a lot of hard work it was reduced to 17 percent and although it had been brought down to 12 percent, it still remains highest in Punjab.

The increase in positivity ratio is seriously alarming in Punjab. Similarly, in Multan, out of all beds reserved for corona patients, 65 percent are occupied and 41 ventilators out of a total of 68 are currently in use, she added.

The minister said that currently smart lockdowns were enforced in 2030 localities of the province restricting movement of almost 40,000 people. She said the reason of a strong second wave was utter disregard for SOPs by people. She said that by the end of summers, cases had come down significantly due to which the government had opened campuses and businesses. She said now everyone was worried and the government has placed restrictions on business and closed down educational institutions.

Dr Yasmin Rashid said the government had sent face masks and hand sanitizers in Gujranwala gathering which were turned down by opposition. Afterwards positivity ratio went up in Gujranwala. All statistics are shared with people and if the cases continue to increase, we will have to enforce lockdowns. Our performance was acknowledged and appreciated by UN and WHO experts. With the joint efforts of stakeholders, we were able to return to normal life. Currently Peshawar is seeing a high positivity ratio. Wherever there are huge public gatherings, the risk of surge multiplies.

The minister said that the government’s first priority was to mitigate risk to people’s lives. To bring economy on track, we will have to stop the spread of COVID-19, she said adding that the government closed education institutions with a heavy heart. By the use of face mask we can reduce the risk of virus spread by 70 percent.

“We have asked opposition that political activities and gathering may continue in routine any time but currently we are facing a crisis situation and no one should play with the people’s lives, she said.

“The love of country must be beyond your own interests and safety of people’s lives must be first priority. As doctor and as health minister I am under great stress to control the pandemic. Opposition may start their activities once the pandemic is under control,” she added.

Responding to queries of journalists, the minister said that Punjab’s testing capacity was increased manifolds and 18 BSL-3 labs were added taking the cumulative capacity between 20 to 25 thousand.

The government added 10,000 oxygenated beds, added 2,500 ventilators for COVID-19 and included 50 more beds for patients in Multan. All necessary medicines and PPE have been provided in adequate numbers and all health professionals have been directed to observe extra precautions.

Some hospitals have been specified for COVID-19 patients and currently 61 patients are on ventilators in Mayo Hospital. She said vaccine may come in a few months until then all must comply with the SOPs as immune system is not at its full strength in winters. She said public gatherings in the USA continued resulting in increased mortality. She said the Pandemic does not see any ethnic, racial and religious boundaries and politicians must lead people in times of crisis. She said people like Bilawal can afford expensive healthcare facilities but a common man has nowhere to go except public sector hospitals.

She said that the government had hired 32,000 doctors through transparent process and distributed Sehat Insaf Cards among 5.2 million families. Prime Minister Imran Khan has approved provision of universal health coverage to all 22 million families of Punjab. She said the appeal to stop public gatherings was made only to control the pandemic; otherwise, the government was not interested in stopping political activities.

To a question on cases of re-infections, the minister said that complete research was being done on such cases by experts. She said a committee shared its recommendations about the selections on heads of teaching institutions, the notification on MTI has been issued already and initially it will be enforced at the KEMU and Sialkot Medical College.