20 cities identified as virus hotspots

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-Asad says Test, Trace and Quarantine strategy working to follow virus spread
-Total COVID-19 cases near 150,000 mark as more than 53,000 recover

By Ajmal Khan Yousafzai

ISLAMABAD: In line with the Prime Minister’s announcement to control coronavirus through smart lockdown strategy, the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) on Monday undertook a comprehensive review of potential COVID-19 clusters and hotspots across Pakistan.
Chaired by Minister for Planning Development Reforms and Special Initiatives Asad Umar, the NCOC meeting was apprised that a total of 20 cities across Pakistan have been identified as having likely increase in ratio or speed of infection which needs restrictive measures for containment of COVID-19. The same is being shared with provinces by NCOC, the Forum informed.
In Islamabad, G-9/2 and G-9/3 had more than 300 cases and were sealed along with Karachi Company whereas the new hotspots in Islamabad which were being monitored and might be sealed included I-8, I-10, Ghauri Town, Bharakhau, G-6 and G-7 sectors.
Various cities which have registered increase in infection cases and have been identified by NCOC for necessary restrictive measures included Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Faisalabad, Multan, Gujranawala, Swat, Hyderabad, Sukkar, Sialkot, Gujarat, Ghotki, Larakana, Khairpur, Dera Ghazi Khan, Malakand and Mardan.It may be mentioned here that Test, Track and Quarantine (TTQ) was aimed at identifying disease spread, focused clusters and hotspots to enable targeted lockdowns and need-driven resource optimisation at all levels. The TTQ strategy has been formulated to keep spread of the disease in check while different sectors open up. The TTQ strategy involved ramping up of testing, rapidly tracing the contacts of confirmed positive cases, and effective quarantining of positive and suspected cases.
NCOC was briefed in detail about operationalisation of additional oxygenated beds and vents including procurement of these critical healthcare equipment by National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) as announced by the Prime Minister. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Pakistan has jumped to 144,478 after detection of record 5,248 new infections in past 24 hours, media reported on Monday.
According to the latest data released by the National Command and Operation Center, the death toll from COVID-19 in the country has reached 2,729 with 97 more virus-related deaths reported in the last 24 hours.
According to NCOC, 53,805 cases have been detected in Sindh, 54,138 in Punjab, 18,013 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 8,177 in Balochistan, 8,569 in Islamabad, 647 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and 1,129 in Gilgit Baltistan. A total of 5,248 new cases were detected when 29,085 new tests were conducted during this period.
The number of people defeating the deadly virus has reached 53,721, while 88,028 are still battling the deadly virus. Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar had said on Sunday that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government intends to enhance the daily coronavirus testing capacity to 100,000 by next month.
Speaking about the number of confirmed coronavirus cases, the minister said that the total number of Covid-19 cases in the country has reached closer to 150,000 which are likely to increase two-fold by the end of this month. 1000 oxygenated beds would be functional by end June and another 1150 by end of July.
The National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) on Monday identified 20 cities across Pakistan with potential Covid-19 hotspots using a strategy termed as ‘testing, tracing and quarantining (TTQ)’, according to press release issued by the centre. The TTQ strategy involves ramping up Covid-19 testing followed by rapidly tracing the contacts of confirmed positive cases, and effective quarantining of positive and suspected cases.
Explaining the decision to impose a lockdown in the aforementioned areas of Lahore, Rashid said that the final decision was approved after more than 300 confirmed cases of Covid-19 had been recorded in each of these areas — indicating a sharp spike.
Rashid said pharmacies, tandoors and dairy shops will remain open in these areas and and so will any factories that are making personal protective equipment.
“These areas will be locked down for at least two weeks and then we will observe the results,” she said.
She warned that the provincial government may take “strict actions” against those who continue to flout the standard operating procedures (SOPs).
Rashid rejected the idea that the PTI government had failed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. “If our government has failed, so has every other government in the world,” she said.
“The media is comparing us to New Zealand and Taiwan. The population of New Zealand is half of that of Lahore’s. Controlling the virus there is much easier than controlling it in a densely populated country like ours,” she added.
“People don’t understand that this is a viral infection. Even in China, where they followed strict measures with commendable discipline, there is a resurgence of cases,” she concluded.
The move comes just two days after Prime Minister Imran Khan, in a presser alongside the top brass of Punjab government, ruled out a sweeping lockdown in the province after the provincial government had proposed one in light of rapidly rising virus cases, particularly in the capital, Lahore.
Instead, the premier said the government will enforce selective lockdowns as part of its TTQ strategy in areas where clusters were found, which he said will be identified using a “sophisticated” software. He warned that strict implementation of SOPs will be enforced in these areas with violators getting punished.
Last week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) expressed concern over the hasty lifting of restrictions in a letter written to the Punjab health minister, stating that Pakistan did not meet any of the prerequisites for opening of the lockdown.
It also alerted Pakistan to its high positivity rate, underlining seriousness of the Covid-19 situation and poor efforts of the government in this regard.
As a strategy to help contain the massive transmission of coronavirus, the WHO recommended the provinces to impose a two-week lockdown. “WHO strongly recommends the two weeks off and two weeks on strategy as it offers the smallest curve,” the letter said.
Peshawar DC imposes restrictions on 4 localities
Meanwhile, the Peshawar deputy commissioner directed officials to enforce “controlled exit and entry” in four localities of the provincial capital due to an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases, in light of the recommendations made by the district health officer.
According to the notification, no general entry or exit will be allowed, except to those supplying essential commodities. Further, all types of gatherings will be strictly prohibited and all shops, other than those providing essential services, shall remain closed. Congregations in mosques will also be restricted to five people.
“Anyone contravening the above directions shall render himself liable to be proceeded against under sections 17 and 18 of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Epidemic Control and Emergency Relief Ordinance 2020, and/or section 33 of the National Disaster Management Authority Act, 2010,” the notification added.