Masses warned over virus surge

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-Public asked to spend Ramazan, Eid with simplicity
-‘Very risky period ahead’ predicted | 140 more fall prey to deadly virus 
-Total cases crosses 850,000 mark
-Death toll reaches 18,677

By Ajmal Khan Yousafzai

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Planning and Development and Head of the National Command Operation Centre (NCOC) Asad Umar on Friday asked the public to spend the last days of Ramazan and Eid with simplicity in the wake of the surging COVID-19 cases in the country.
Taking to Twitter to make an appeal, Asad Umar said that with help of Allah Almighty and timely decisions taken, the country has not witnessed a similar situation that has evolved in neighbouring country, India.
“Together we should spend this time while adopting precaution,” he said while urging the masses to stay home to remain safe during the last days of Ramazan and Eid ul Fitr. It is pertinent to mention here that the federal interior ministry has released an Eid holiday notification announcing 10- to 15 May as off days across Pakistan on account of Eid.
The holidays are approved by the Prime Minister after consultations with all stakeholders and keeping in mind recommendations by National Command Operation Center (NCOC) in a bid to limit Covid spread.
Under the guidelines issued for the festival, citizens have been asked to refrain from shaking hands and hugging during the Eidul Fitr gatherings, as well as avoiding unnecessarily travelling and family events. It has been directed to maintain a one-meter distance during an outdoor event along with the family members on Eid. The administration of mosques has been ordered to keep doors and windows opened during the Eidul Fitr prayers and refrain from using water coolers.
Moreover, the novel coronavirus on Friday claimed 140 more lives across Pakistan over the previous 24 hours, pushing the death toll from the disease to 18,677. A total of 4,298 new infections were detected during the same period, taking the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 850,131.
According to the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), 44,846 samples were tested, out of which 4,298 turned out to be positive. The positivity rate of Covid-19 cases was recorded at 9.58 per cent.
On Thursday, National Command Operation Centre (NCOC) had given an additional task to the law enforcement authorities (LEAs) to manage entry and exit points at tourist spots during Eid holidays.
In special directives issued to the National Highway Authority (NHA) and Frontier Works Organization (FWO), the NCOC said that they should highlight banners at the toll plaza regarding the government’s decision to ban visits to tourist places during Eid holidays. The NCOC said that the provinces have also issued directives to restrict movement during holidays, besides also banning tourist spots and hotels in these areas.
Earlier, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan warned Pakistanis of a “very risky period ahead” as Ramadan comes to an end and the days of Eid-ul-Fitr holidays approach.The prime minister’s aide acknowledged there were “initial signs of some stability” during the coronavirus pandemic but cautioned people against taking the infection lightly.”We are today in the midst of the third wave of Covid-19 pandemic and while there may be very initial signs of some stability (in the third wave), these are very early days and this is a very risky period for us as the holy month of Ramazan is going to end and Eid is approaching,” he said during a webinar. He called on microbiologists and scientists to keep warning people about the dangers of the coronavirus and encourage them to keep following the standard operating procedures for safety against the infection.
The webinar, titled SOPs and vaccination: Solution for the Covid-19 Pandemic, was attended by microbiologists, molecular biologists, medical professionals and students from Pakistan as well as abroad. Speaking about Punjab, Dr Sultan said the curve is flattening in Punjab and the same was the case in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
However, he said coronavirus cases were on the rise in Sindh due to low compliance of SOPs by the masses, adding that now was not the time to get complacent as Pakistan still had more than 5,200 in critical care. “Covid-19 cases may rise again if precautions are not taken during this critical period when we are seeing the last days of the holy month of Ramazan and Eid is a festive season,” he said.In response to a question, he said the government was concentrating on getting those vaccinated first who were the most vulnerable group.
“Our first and foremost priority was to protect those who were at the greatest risk of dying. The second and concurrent objective was to protect individuals and to have enough immune people to allow reduced transmission of the disease,” he added.
Speaking about the availability of vaccines, Dr Sultan rejected the perception that there were “millions of doses of the vaccine” are available, especially for private import.He said even the COVAX alliance was unable to secure the vaccine for low-income countries, adding that Pakistan was in contact with Chinese manufacturers to ensure Pakistan met its coronavirus vaccine demands. Over 100 die from coronavirus in Pakistan on Wednesday.