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Covid-19 in Pakistan: Cases pile on as govt implements smart lockdowns amid WHO criticism

Anadolu Agency
Specific areas have been sealed, new SOPs issued, while medicinal misappropriation continues along with other violations
by TR Pakistan

The numbers: Pakistan has reported a total number of 165,062 coronavirus cases and 3,229 deaths as of Friday morning. The provincial tally of infected patients is 61,678 in Punjab, 62,269 in Sindh, 8,998 in Balochistan, and 20,182 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Islamabad Capital Territory has reported 9,941 cases whereas Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir have reported 1,225 and 769 cases respectively.

 Criticism from WHO: The number of coronavirus cases in Pakistan skyrocketed when the lockdown restrictions were eased across the country last month. Following this, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported Pakistan as one of the top ten countries with high infection rates around the world. In a letter to provinces, WHO criticized the government’s efforts to contain the virus and highlighted the 24% positivity rate. The letters claimed that Pakistan was not in a state where the lockdown restrictions should have been eased. An immediate two-week lockdown was advised, as well as increasing public health capabilities and conducting 50,000 tests every day in order to assess the intensity of virus transmission.

 Smart lockdowns: The National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) pinpointed 20 cities across the country that are hotspots for coronavirus while the provincial governments imposed smart lockdowns in multiple districts and hard-hit areas of metropoles like Lahore, Karachi, and Islamabad. The Chief Secretary of Punjab delegated authority to deputy commissioners, who can implement two-week lockdowns in cities with an increasing number of coronavirus patients such as Multan, Lahore, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi, Sialkot, and Gujrat. In Balochistan, the provincial lockdown has been extended for another 15 days.

SOPs: Markets, shopping malls, and other businesses will remain open from 9 am to 7 pm from Saturday to Thursday, while medical stores, tandoors, dairy shops, and tailor shops will be allowed to open 24 hours a day, maintaining strict adherence to predefined standard operating procedures (SOPs). Educational institutions, wedding halls, and recreational places will remain closed.

Union councils sealed: In Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, district administrations have sealed entire union councils and smaller areas according to the prevalence of the virus. In Sindh, areas under the Hyderabad, Karachi, and Larkana districts have been sealed whereas, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, areas in Swat, Lower Dir, Abbottabad, Mansehra, and four other districts have been sealed. In the capital territory, areas in sector I-8 and sector I-10 including markets were cordoned off and completely sealed. Only essential services such as pharmacies, grocery stores, and bakeries, will be allowed to operate under SOPs. Other areas in Islamabad, including sector G, E, and F, Chak Shahzad, Bhara Kahu, and Tarlai, Sohan, and Khanna are also under surveillance and awaiting decisions whether they should be sealed.

 Search for medicine: Over the past weeks, the illegal sale of plasma of recovered covid-19 patients has increased, including demands for unreasonable prices from those selling the plasma. However, according to health guidelines, plasma therapy is still experimental and should only be administered in controlled settings as a research protocol. The Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) also warned that it should not be treated as a cure for coronavirus. The SAPM Health Dr. Zafar Mirza reported that the administration of Dexamethasone in critical covid-19 patients in Pakistan will be considered. He also announced that WHO will collaborate with Pakistan for a “unity study” to determine the prevalence of coronavirus. The government will base its plan of action on the results of this study which will be available next month.

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