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Pakistan’s NCOC Warns of Another Lockdown

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo of a NCOC meeting. Courtesy PID

Body overseeing national response to pandemic says if SOP compliance does not improve, strict measures will need to be re-introduced

Pakistan’s National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) on Wednesday warned that a recent surge in daily COVID-19 infections and deaths caused by the disease was raising the prospect of another lockdown to curb the spread of the disease.

“NCOC is closely monitoring the situation. If there is no improvement in SOPs compliance observed, NCOC will have no choice but to revert to strict measures leading to re-closures of services,” read a statement issued by the NCOC following a meeting attended by the chief secretaries of all provinces.

The body, led by Planning Minister Asad Umar, oversees Pakistan’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The statement said that it had been monitoring the recent spike in daily infections, claiming it was a “clear resurgence.”

During Wednesday’s meeting, it was stressed that the country is fast approaching a point where movement restrictions would become necessary if the district administrators could not increase the public’s compliance with government-issued guidelines to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The chief secretaries were directed to “strictly implement” SOPs and take action against anyone violating them, especially people without face masks. They were also told to focus on sectors with high-risk of spread, including public transport, markets, marriage halls, restaurants and public gatherings.

Addressing an event in Multan, Punjab Health Minister Dr. Yasmin Rashid also warned that COVID-19 infections were once more on the rise. “If people don’t follow SOPs, we will have to return to lockdowns, which have a significant impact on the economy and the livelihoods of people,” she said.

The minister said that the country would not be free of COVID-19 until a vaccine had been developed, adding that she hoped the ongoing clinical trials in the country would soon provide some relief.

“We must all continue to adopt SOPs to avoid another lockdown,” she reiterated. “Once a vaccine has been made available, we will strive to provide it to every person so the country can finally be free of COVID,” she added.

Pakistan on Wednesday reported its highest number of deaths due to COVID-19 in two months. At the same time, its daily infections have risen from less than 500 per day to more than 600/day, with health experts warning this is the onset of a “second wave” of the virus to coincide with winter.

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