NCOC mulls steps to turn tide of third Covid wave

The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) will meet on Monday (today) to take major decisions aimed at containing the unabated spread of coronavirus pandemic, as the third wave of the disease appeared to have intensified.

Sunday remained the fourth straight day to witness the single-day tally of new Covid cases hover well above 3,000. On Saturday, the NCOC had reported 3,876 fresh cases in a single day – the highest number since July 2, 2020.

The NCOC, which serves as the nerve centre of the government’s synchronised response to the global pandemic, reported 3,677 new cases during the past 24 hours. According to the official data, the positivity ratio was registered at 8.7% on Sunday.

The NCOC in its meeting on Monday (today) will review the overall situation and is likely to take further measures to contain the spread of the disease. It is expected that the meeting would decide to expand smart lockdowns in the virus hotspots.

The forum will also consider a proposal to close the schools, which are open for the examinations. “Violations of the SOPs [standard operating procedures] are being reported in most of the schools, where examinations are being conducted,” said a source.

Another proposal to be discussed in the NCOC pertained to the shopkeepers not complying with the (SOPs), the source said. “Under section 188 [of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC)], shopkeepers in Islamabad who do not comply with SOPs will be arrested,” the source added.

Many shops in Islamabad’s Aabpara area were closed on Sunday. Some shopkeepers were also detained for not implementing the SOPs at their shops. However, the NCOC will decide what action to be taken in case of violation of the SOPs in the markets.

Coronavirus first emerged in the country in February, 2020. The first wave of the disease started ebbing in July after witnessing a peak of more than 5,000 cases in a day in June. The single-day tally showed a rising trend again towards the end of 2020, dubbed by experts as the second wave.

In February the number of cases had come down to over 1,000. However, the tally started rising with the advent of March. In the first 10 days of this month, the single-day tally of new cases hovered above 1,500 but then the trajectory kept on going up, described the government as the third wave of Covid.

Planning Minister Asad Umar, who heads the NCOC, said on Sunday the current situation of coronavirus was too dangerous and warned that the third wave of Covid-19 was more lethal as compared to previous two waves.

The minister, who previously attributed the rise in the cases during March to the spread of the UK strain of the disease, said that the people were not adopting the precautionary measures proposed by the NCOC to combat the deadly virus.

“The UK strain is already known to transmit more easily and spreads faster as compared to the original strain,” the minister said in an interview. “So, everyone should have to adopt all SOPs to protect themselves from the virus,” he added.

Earlier in Lahore, Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) President Dr Ashraf Nizami said that increasing number of Covid-19 cases underscore need for a full-fledged lockdown and urged the government to ensure availability of coronavirus vaccines to the public.

However, in the interview Umar shot down the proposal of a country-wide lockdown. He said that the government could increase the restrictions regarding coronavirus pandemic but it would not impose a complete lockdown all over the country. “Complete lockdown is not the solution,” he said.

Read more: Covid-19 cases hit 8-month high in Pakistan

The minister also dispelled rumours about the efficacy of vaccination. “The people should get themselves vaccinated against the virus because not a single case was reported regarding any reaction of vaccine in the country.”

The government started the vaccination campaign in February, administering doses to the frontline health workers on a priority. On March 10, it embarked on the second phase of the inoculation, providing jabs to senior citizens.

Asad Umar said that 700,000 vaccine doses would be made available in the country in the coming 10 days. He added that more than 500,000 people had been vaccinated so far. He encouraged the people to get the vaccine shot.

As of Sunday, according to the NCOC, the national caseload of the disease since February last year has reached 626,802. It added in the daily bulletin that with 44 fatalities in the past 24 hours, the nationwide death toll rose to 13,843.

The third wave of the disease is particularly severe in Punjab, the country’s most populous province besides Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Islamabad. Most of the cases as well as the fatalities are being reported from Punjab.

The Punjab government on Sunday issued directions for the markets and commercial centres in six districts – Rawalpindi, Jhelum, Sheikhupura, Chiniot, Khanewal and Dera Ghazi Khan – to remain closed on Friday and Saturday.

Elsewhere in the country, all public gatherings were banned and tourist resorts closed in Quetta with immediate effect in view of the current Covid-19 situation which has seen cases rising across the country, according to a notification issued by the district administration.

(This story has been published from The Express Tribune feed, without modifications to the text)