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Pakistan’s Federal Cabinet Ramps Up COVID-19 Mitigation Efforts

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo. YouTube

NCOC directs provincial governments to prepare for potential two-week lockdown in 20 cities with high coronavirus positivity

Prime Minister Imran Khan has directed authorities concerned to ensure adequate food supply and distribution in areas that might need to go under complete lockdown to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Tuesday.

Addressing a press conference after a meeting of the federal cabinet, he said that the prevailing situation arising out of the ongoing third wave of the pandemic had been discussed in-depth during the weekly meeting of lawmakers. Among the measures discussed were plans to boost local production of oxygen by 250 tons/day and reduce its use in non-essential industries. He said this decision was prompted by the supply issues in neighboring India, where a devastating second wave of the pandemic has left people scrambling for oxygen and boosted the death toll by thousands.

In addition, said Chaudhry, the cabinet had decided to ask Iran to export oxygen to Pakistan on humanitarian basis by relaxing an import ban it had imposed during a surge of COVID-19. Earlier, Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan had also announced that the government planned to boost its oxygen supplies by importing from neighboring countries, including China.

Chaudhry said Pakistan was producing 792 metric tons of oxygen daily right now to meet the requirements of COVID-19 patients. He claimed that this situation would have been much worse if the government had not procured an additional 7,000 ventilators for COVID-19 patients and doubled the production of oxygen in the past year.

The information minister clarified that oxygen could not be airlifted, and had to be transported by road, meaning any import orders placed now would reach the country in six to seven weeks. He also confirmed that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government had imposed a total lockdown in Mardan after the city’s positivity rate climbed to 40 percent. “The city has become a threat to adjoining towns and cities,” he said.

According to Chaudhry, the federal government had decided to announce a five-day holiday for Eidul Fitr to allow people to stay at home, reducing the burden on major urban centers, where the pandemic’s spread was of greater intensity.

On Pakistan’s vaccination program, the information minister said around 2 million had been inoculated thus far. Stressing that the vaccines was completely safe, he urged all eligible citizens to register and get vaccinated, adding that 3.7 million doses of vaccines were currently available in the country and anyone 40 and over was now eligible.

Prepping for lockdown

Also on Tuesday, the NCOC wrote to the governments of Punjab, Sindh, Pakistan-administered Kashmir, and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, directing them to ensure proper planning for a potential lockdown in 20 cities from May 2/3. According to the circular, the lockdown would last two weeks and would target all cities and districts with high prevalence of the pandemic. The list of cities facing a potential lockdown are as follows:

  • Islamabad
  • Rawalpindi
  • Lahore
  • Multan
  • Faisalabad
  • Gujranwala
  • Bahawalpur
  • Hyderabad
  • Peshawar
  • Dir Lower
  • Mardan
  • Nowshera
  • Malakand
  • Charsadda
  • Swat
  • Swabi
  • Muzaffarabad
  • Sudhnuti
  • Poonch
  • Bagh

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