Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health claims most sectors are implementing around 50 percent or less of government-issued guidelines
Warning that hospital admissions of coronavirus patients is placing great pressure on Pakistan’s healthcare infrastructure, Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan on Monday said that the spread of the pandemic cannot be reduced unless the public fully adopts all government-issued standard operating procedures (SOPs).
“If we look at the data from April 1-11 [the span of the current restrictions], we can see that the SOP compliance has not been taken seriously,” he lamented after a meeting of the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) to review the prevailing situation. “There are currently 4,201 COVID-19 patients admitted to various hospitals across Pakistan,” he said, noting that the June peak had seen around 3,300 hospital admissions. “The current peak of admissions is far higher than earlier,” he warned, stressing that this was placing great pressure on healthcare facilities, especially in major cities of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces.
Sultan regretted that, apart from hospitals, all sectors were failing in implementing SOPs “in letter and spirit.” He claimed that by all indications, most sectors only had around 50 percent SOP compliance, with the transport sector adopting the least number of SOPs. “Similarly, on ‘safe days’ when commercial activities are supposed to be halted, we have seen lax implementation of the closure orders,” he said, adding that this was also reflected in the implementation of reduced working hours throughout the week.
“We have also received reports that despite a nationwide ban, some restaurants are continuing to offer indoor dining,” he lamented. “Mask compliance is so low that we are very concerned,” he said. “In fact, in most sectors, use of face masks is less than 5 percent,” he added.
“I appeal to the public to seriously adopt all SOPs,” he said. “The spread of the pandemic is very high and it is placing great pressure on our healthcare facilities,” he said, stressing that if everyone adopted all the SOPs, the country would see the pandemic’s spread slowing.
“I also request all ulema to work with the government in ensuring compliance with SOPs at mosques during Ramzan,” he said, noting that last year, the ulema had also helped the government ensure SOP compliance and this could yield positive results.
“Our vaccination drive is ongoing. People over-50 should all register for the vaccines and go to designated centers as soon as they receive confirmation texts,” he said, adding that people over 60 now had the option of walk-ins and they should avail them to get inoculated against COVID-19. “By the end of this month, and through May and June, we’ll have access to millions of vaccines for distribution,” he claimed, stressing that everyone should get vaccinated as soon as possible.
“Please remember that vaccines are not 100 percent effective,” he said. “Even if you have been vaccinated, please continue all SOPs until health departments tell you otherwise to ensure safety,” he said.
Earlier, local media had reported that the Punjab government had urged the NCOC to allow it to implement a complete lockdown in provincial capital Lahore to curb the spread of the virus in the city. Sultan did not make any mention of this request or whether it was under consideration by the government. Prime Minister Imran Khan has repeatedly stressed that he does not believe complete lockdowns are effective, as they have the potential to leave the poor and impoverished without any food or money.
On Monday, Pakistan recorded a national positivity ratio of 10.3 percent after reporting 4,584 new infections from 44,514 tests. The government had, on April 1, launched a “smart lockdown” policy to curb the spread of the virus, which was set to expire on April 11. This was extended till April 13 over the weekend, with the NCOC yet to provide any details for what its plans are from April 14-onward. Health officials have urged the government to take extreme steps now, warning that there is great risk of the pandemic spreading out of control after Ramzan starts this week.