Pakistan may soon cross peak seen during first coronavirus wave: Top official

Islamabad: A top Pakistani government official on Saturday said the coronavirus cases in the country would soon cross the peak level seen during the first wave of the pandemic in June last year and warned that if the surge in infections is not controlled, tougher restrictions will have to be imposed.

Addressing a media briefing here, National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) Chairman Asad Umar said the government is trying to keep a balance between protecting the livelihood and containing the virus at the same time.

However, he said, “If the increase continues at this rate then in the next few days or next week, we will go beyond the level and peak we saw in the first wave in June and you all must remember what the situation was at the time.”

Noting that people are not following the (standard operating procedures) SOPs, Umar said the COVID situation developing in the country is becoming “very dangerous”.

“Maybe till now the people haven’t realised what dangerous situation we are facing in the third wave of COVID-19,” he said.

The NCOC is Pakistan’s main national body set up to control the pandemic.

Umar, who is also the Minister for Planning, warned that tougher restrictions will have to be imposed to control the virus as the hospitals are already nearing their full capacity and availability of beds might now become an issue.

“The reason behind sharing all this is not to create fear but to alert the nation so it can decisively act together and follow a plan of action to confront the challenge posed by COVID-19,” he said.

The minister said while the government’s first priority was to protect people’s livelihoods from being affected by COVID-19 restrictions, the rise in cases was alarming and tougher restrictions would be necessary in case the trend continues.

“We have to once again combat this disease — which is spreading — together and defend the people. We have to do it in a way that we don’t allow the disease to spread to that extent in which unfortunately we have to deal a blow to people’s livelihoods.

“Our first effort is this (protection of livelihoods) but you’re seeing the speed with which this is continuing to spread. If we don’t take immediate measures then such a situation can also develop that we have to do further restrictions,” he said.

Pakistan, which is facing a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, has reported 4,468 new cases in the last 24 hours, the highest single-day increase since June 22, 2020, when 4,471 cases were reported, the health ministry said.

The current spike is being led by Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Islamabad with 2,330, 953 and 709 new cases, respectively.

The total number of reported cases reached 649,824.

With 67 more people succumbing to the viral infection overnight, the death toll reached 14,158.

The positivity rate is 10.09 per cent, the ministry said. (PTI)

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