Covid-19 ICU figures at all-time high, says minister

Asad says 50,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses imported by private sector available in Pakistan

The number of people treated in intensive care units (ICUs) across the country for coronavirus reached an all-time high, at 3,568, Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar said on Sunday.

The development came as the government portal reported 5,020 new infections of the novel coronavirus after conducting 55,605 tests, receiving back a positivity rate of 9.02 per cent.

“The need for strong enforcement of sop’s [standard operating procedures] is vital. Please take precautions and cooperate with administration in their enforcement efforts,” Asad said in a tweet.

The country has recorded 14,778 deaths and 687,908 infections since the pandemic began. Around two-thirds of ventilators and 80 per cent of oxygenated beds are occupied in hospitals in major cities, according to officials.

As the number of cases soars, the federal government has imposed a ban on public gatherings, sports events, and wedding ceremonies.

Emergency wards of hospitals in Lahore and Islamabad have been filled to capacity with coronavirus patients, according to health workers.

“We are increasing the capacity of our hospitals […] but no matter how much we increase capacity, if cases continue to rise as they are currently, it will create pressure that will not be easy for our hospitals to handle,” Minister of State for Health Dr Faisal Sultan said last week during a visit to major hospitals in Islamabad.

Several neighborhoods in both cities have been placed under strict lockdowns. Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday ruled out a general lockdown while acknowledging the country was going through a third wave of the pandemic.

“We have to adopt a balanced policy where the spread of the virus can be prevented and where the poor man and the country’s economy are least affected,” he told a meeting of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC).

The government has opted for “smart lockdowns” — short-term, targeted restrictions imposed often at neighbourhood level — to try to tame the disease while keeping the economy afloat.

While federal and provincial governments have announced restrictions on gatherings, public transportation, and mask mandates, the measures have largely not been enforced.

The prime minister said he would direct the government to reinforce the mask mandates.

VACCINATION CAMPAIGN:

Some 800,000 doses of vaccine have been administered across the country so far, all of them Sinopharm donated by China, Minister of State for National Health Services (NHS) Dr Sultan said on last Wednesday.

He confirmed that half of another million doses bought from Sinopharm had arrived on Thursday.

The government is scrambling to get more vaccine as it awaits WHO/COVAX/GAVI allocations of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which have been delayed.

The authorities are planning to?acquire enough?of a concentrated form of the Chinese CanSino Biologics vaccine next month to locally produce 3 million doses.

“We are speeding up this process and want to take it to the next stage,” Dr Sultan said.

The government has allowed the private sector to import and sell vaccines but a legal dispute between the importer and the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) over the price has delayed that mechanism.

VACCINE JABS IMPORTED BY PRIVATE SECTOR AVAILABLE:

Separately, during an interview with a private news channel on Sunday, Asad said that 50,000 coronavirus vaccine doses imported by private sector are available in Pakistan.

It was the responsibility of the provincial governments to take care of the people’s health and ensure the availability of coronavirus vaccine in their respective jurisdiction, he said.

A shipment of 40,00,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine was arriving in Pakistan by the end of April, he disclosed. In reply to a question, he said that there are reports that Sindh government had already given orders for the purchase of vaccine.

As far as responsibilities of the federal government were concerned, he said that the Centre was fulfilling its responsibilities with utmost care. The NCOC chief further stated that some 25,00,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine have already arrived in Pakistan.

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