Thursday June 08, 2023

New steps taken after Covid-19 resurge

Speaking to Geo News, officials of the Ministry of National Health Services Regulations and Coordination said cases of the Omicron variant were spreading at a fast pace in Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad.

By M Waqar Bhatti & News Desk
January 16, 2022

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: The National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) on Saturday reviewed the existing protocols and called on the health and education ministers to suggest a new set of guidelines amid the fifth wave of coronavirus that has worried the government.

The new set of SOPs will be put forth in a meeting on January 17, with its focus on schools and the education sector as a whole, public gatherings, marriage ceremonies, indoor/outdoor dining, and the transport sector, according to a statement issued on Saturday. The development came during a session of the NCOC, which was held to review the coronavirus trends in the country as the positivity ratio crossed 8%, reported Geo News.

The forum discussed the epidemic curve chart data, disease prevalence, and proposed NPIs in wake of rising disease trends in the country, especially in the urban centres, it said.

Amid rising cases in the country due to the Omicron variant, the forum decided to extensively engage with provinces, especially with the Sindh government for necessary measures to tackle the rising coronavirus numbers.

With regards to the aviation sector, the NCOC decided to implement a complete ban on inflight serving of meals and snacks with effect from January 17, the statement said. The NCOC has asked the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to ensure inflight mask-wearing and also implement COVID-19 SOPs at all airports.

Similarly, serving meals and snacks in public transport will also be banned with effect from January 17.

The forum asked the federating units to take strict measures against violators of existing SOPs, especially those not wearing masks. It also directed them to ensure enforcement of obligatory vaccination regime.

NCOC also directed federating units to strictly enforce existing protocols especially in transport, education, and sectors; and in public spaces like restaurants and wedding halls.

Moreover, federating units were asked to carry out immediate surveys of health care facilities (including oxygenated beds), oxygen stocks, and reserves, the statement said. The NCOC directed all quarters to fast-track vaccination drive and ramp up efforts to achieve vaccination targets, it added.

Speaking to Geo News, officials of the Ministry of National Health Services Regulations and Coordination said cases of the Omicron variant were spreading at a fast pace in Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad.

The officials said Omicron had now become the dominant variant in the country as 60-70% of the cases reported every day were of the new offshoot of the virus — which was first detected in Pakistan on December 13, 2021.

Most of the Omicron variant cases are being reported in Sindh, the officials said and warned that the variant might spread in smaller cities and towns.

Pakistan reported the highest number of cases— 4,286 — since August 25, 2021, in the last 24 hours, the NCOC data showed Saturday morning, as compared to 3,567 a day earlier.

The positivity ratio also shot up to 8.16%, the highest since August 11, when 52,522 tests were conducted across the country, according to the NCOC data.

The overall cases have reached 1.32 million after the detection of new infections, while the death toll now stands at 29,003 as four deaths were reported from the coronavirus in the last 24 hours.

It also asked for strict enforcement of existing SOPs especially in transport, education and sectors with high social gatherings like restaurants and wedding halls.

Meanwhile, despite COVID-19 positivity climbing upto to 35.30 percent in Karachi, Sindh Taskforce on COVID-19 Saturday decided not to impose any kind of lockdown in the province and allowed all educational institutions, businesses and social activities to continue under ‘strict SOPs”.

The provincial taskforce, which met here with Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali in the chair, reviewed the overall COVID-19 situation as well as spread of Omicron Variant in the province and decided to ask the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) to either hold the PSL matches without spectators or reduce the number of spectators to 50 percent to further prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the city. The meeting was attended by provincial ministers Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho, Syed Nasir Shah, Syed Sardar Shah, Parliamentary Secretary Health Qasim Soomro, Additional Chief Secretary Home Qazi Shahid Parvez, PSCM Sajid Jamal Abro, Commissioner Karachi Iqbal Memon, Secretary Health Zulfiqar Shah, representatives from Corps 5, Pakistan Rangers Sindh, WHO, Dr Abdul Bari, VC Dow University Prof. Saeed Qurasihy, Dr Faisal Mahmood from AKUH and other concerned officers.

The meeting was told that COVID infection rate has increased in Karachi at 35.3 percent in Karachi, 5.12 percent in Hyderabad and 2.4 percent in the rest of the province but the situation was under control.

The health department told the meeting that there was no pressure on the hospitals. The COVID patients were recovering fast and the death rate was very low at 1.6 percent.

The meeting after thorough discussion and deliberations decided to intensify vaccination drives all over the province. “We have to vaccinate our people so that they develop an immune system against the infection,” the CM said.

The task force advised the government to make wearing of masks mandatory in all the public and private offices and at public places. The participants of the meeting recommended the government to deduct the one-day salary of the officials who did not wear masks in their offices.

The participants of the meeting recommended the government to serve food in marriage halls in lunch boxes for which the commissioners were directed to coordinate with the marriage hall administrations.

The meeting decided that all the educational institutions, including-primary and primary schools would function as usual but under strict SOPs.