KARACHI/ISLAMABAD: The Sindh government is mulling a complete lockdown in Karachi as the city’s hospitals are "nearing saturation point", members from the provincial task force on coronavirus told The News on Thursday.
The task force’s members said the final decision to impose a lockdown in the port city would be taken in a meeting tomorrow at 11am, with Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah in the chair.
Provincial government officials told Geo News that medical experts within the task force have asked for a complete 14-day lockdown in the city. "Hospitals are nearing a saturation point with cases in Karachi rising rapidly," the task force members said, adding that the Sindh government was consulting stakeholders on the imposition of a lockdown.
Representatives of the Pakistan Medical Association have already demanded a complete lockdown across Sindh, the members said. The task force members said more than 370 Covid-19 patients had been admitted to hospitals across Karachi in just the last two days. "The pressure on oxygen supply is increasing with the influx of patients."
Businesses will be shut and a complete ban on public movement will be imposed during the lockdown, the task force members said. On a positive note, the Sindh government's suggestion to block SIM cards of people who have not been vaccinated seems to be working, with hundreds of people lined up outside Karachi's vaccination centres, Geo News reported.
A long queue of people could be seen outside Expo Centre, the biggest vaccination centre in the city.
The Sindh Health Department said in the last 24 hours 188,000 people got themselves inoculated. Separately, Federal Minister for Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives Asad Umar, who heads the National Command and Operation Centre, expressed concern over the situation in Karachi, where the positivity ratio had exceeded 30%.
Umar, addressing a press conference earlier in the day, supported the steps taken by the Sindh government to curb the spread and said the federal government will extend all support to the province.
“Sindh is taking proactive measures, which is the right thing to do right now,” he said. On media reports of a possible lockdown in Karachi, he said "this is not the solution". “In the past one year, we have learned that shutting down has not worked and it won't work now. So the only way forward is to vaccinate and follow SOPs.”
Given the alarming rise in coronavirus cases in Karachi, the Secretary-General of the PMA Dr Qaiser Sajjad, a day earlier, had suggested imposing a 15-day lockdown in the metropolis.
Speaking to Geo News, Dr Sajjad said that according to government statistics, the positivity ratio has risen to 30% in the city. "If we count those people who have not taken a PCR test for COVID-19, the positivity ratio in the city has likely reached 40%," Dr Sajjad said. He said the government has no other option but to impose a complete lockdown.
Meanwhile, the federal government on Thursday set August 31 as the deadline for anti-COVID vaccination, following which only vaccinated staff and people would be allowed to enter both public, private sector offices, businesses and high risk sectors.
“This is being done for you. This is not a punishment but acknowledgment to make you realise that you play an important role for this society and economy. And we, on a priority basis want that your health is not compromised so that your livelihood continues and the economy also continues,” Minister for Planning Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar said while addressing a press conference here.
The federal minister was flanked by Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan. Asad Umar said that NCOC had already made a decision earlier that unvaccinated people would be barred from traveling in domestic flights from August 1, likewise teachers and staff would also not be allowed to enter educational institutions unvaccinated from this date.
He said, “We cannot take the risk of children, adding that around 80 percent of teachers have already been vaccinated.” The minister said the ban would be extended from August 31 on other sectors and places where risk of coronavirus spread is high due to excessive assembling of people, including transport sector, markets and public-dealing offices.
The minister said the drivers, who provide pick and drop facility to school children would be required to vaccinate themselves while those travelling on public transport should also follow the deadline. The students with age of over 18 years would also have to vaccinate themselves to attend educational institutions while employees of private and public sector entities could not enter their office unvaccinated after August 31.
In addition, people in high-risk areas including hotels, restaurants and marriage halls would also have to get vaccinated in addition to those of law enforcement agencies, banks, Nadra, markets, shopping malls and chain stores.
Talking about the ongoing vaccination drive, the minister said that the government intended to increase the vaccination target to one million people in one day, adding that the highest number of 849,692 people were vaccinated on July 28, following the vaccination of 778,000 on July 27 and 680,000 on July 26. He said, the single dose vaccination also touched the highest number of 637,000 in one day, adding that in provinces one day record 500,000 vaccinations was made in Punjab, 169,000 in Sindh, 111,000 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 18,500 in Balochistan.
The minister said that people should realise that whatever they did, have an effect; if they follow Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), the coronavirus would definitely come down and if they ignore, the pandemic would spread.
He said when SoPs were followed in Ramadan and Eid, positive results were witnessed as the pandemic had gone down, but people take it easy when it recedes and consequently, it climbs up accordingly.
He said that complete lockdowns did not work in India and Bangladesh and had very negative effect. He said the government had a comprehensive framework and was taking data-based decisions.
However, he said there were problems in compliance of coronavirus SOPs all across the country. Meanwhile, the national tally on Thursday of total active COVID-19 cases recorded 5,9761 with 4,497 more people tested positive for the deadly virus during the last 24 hours.
76 coronavirus patients have died during the past 24 hours, of whom 70 were under treatment in hospital and six out of the hospital in their respective quarantines or homes, according to the latest update issued by the National command and Operation Centre (NCOC).
During the last 24 hours most of the deaths had occurred in Sindh followed by Punjab. Out of the total 76 deaths that occurred during the last 24 hours, 37 of the deceased had died on ventilators during their treatment.
The maximum ventilators were occupied in four major areas including Karachi 17 percent, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) 42 percent, Peshawar 19 percent and Lahore 20 percent. The maximum Oxygen beds (alternate oxygen providing facility other than ventilator administered as per medical requirement of COVID patient) was also occupied in four major areas of Muzaffarabad 28 percent, Gilgit 36 percent, Islamabad 31 percent and Karachi 54 percent.
Around 301 ventilators were occupied elsewhere in the country while no COVID affected person was on ventilator in Balochistan. Some 59,707 tests were conducted across the country on Wednesday, including 20,438 in Sindh, 17,667 in Punjab, 11,686 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), 4,622 in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), 3393 in Balochistan, 813 in GB, and 1088 in AJK.
Around 937,354 people have recovered from the disease so far across Pakistan making it a significant count. Since the pandemic outbreak, a total of 1,020,324 cases were detected that also included the perished, recovered and under treatment COVID-19 patients so far, including AJK 23,631, Balochistan 30,019, GB 7,935, ICT 86,602, KP 142,799, Punjab 354,904 and Sindh 374,434.About 23209 deaths were recorded in country since the eruption of the contagion.
Around 5,903 have perished in Sindh, out of which 40 died in hospital and 03 out of hospital on 28 July. 10,995 in Punjab out of which 14 deaths occurred in hospital and three out of hospital during the past 24 hours. In KP seven died in hospital on 28 July, 797 in ICT among one deaths in hospital during past 24 hours, 326 in Balochistan, 133 in GB out of them six died in hospital on Wednesday and 620 in AJK succumbed to the deadly virus out of which two were died in hospital on Wednesday.
Following a meeting between the federal and provincial education ministers, the recommendation to extend summer vacations for schools in Punjab has been rejected by the government. Taking to Twitter, Punjab Education Minister Murad Raas announced the decision that schools will reopen from August 2 in the province. He announced that all schools will be operating at 50% capacity on any given day.
Schools have been advised to follow all safety regulations and strictly comply with COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs). During the meeting of the education ministers, it was discussed how students have already suffered a lot, therefore, it was decided that the government should make no more compromises when it comes to education.
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