ISLAMABAD: Planning minister Asad Umar, who also heads the government’s pandemic response authority, the NCOC, said on Monday hospitals in Pakistan were filling up and infections were rising, calling on the administration to enforce coronavirus standard operating procedures.
Pakistan is in the midst of a third wave of the coronavirus and recorded 4,584 new infections in the last 24 hours, with 58 deaths. Health officials said on Sunday Pakistan had lost over 650 people to COVID-19 in the last week.
“Reviewed situation of disease spread, fill up of hospitals & SOP compliance status in the NCOC meeting today. SOP compliance remains very weak & pressure on hospitals is increasing,” Umar wrote on Twitter. “Administration has been asked to ramp up compliance enforcement to avoid a crises like situation.”
Reviewed situation of disease spread, fill up of hospitals & SOP compliance status in the NCOC meeting today. SOP compliance remains very weak & pressure on hospitals is increasing. Administration has been asked to ramp up compliance enforcement to avoid a crises like situation
— Asad Umar (@Asad_Umar) April 12, 2021
On April 6, less than a week ago, Umar had said the coronavirus situation was improving:
“Increased restrictions, broader lockdowns & stronger sop [standard operating procedures] enforcement starting to have effect,” he said on Twitter. “Initial signs of positivity slowing. However, due to momentum of last 2 weeks patients on critical care & mortality will stay at high levels for some time.”
Increased restrictions, broader lockdowns & stronger sop enforcement starting to have effect. Initial signs of positivity slowing. However, due to momentum of last 2 weeks patients on critical care & mortality will stay at high levels for some time. Please follow sop's & be safe
— Asad Umar (@Asad_Umar) April 6, 2021
Pakistan recently re-imposed a number of restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus, including closing schools, disallowing indoor dining and large gatherings like weddings and making masks mandatory in public places.
Earlier this month, Pakistan announced new health guidelines for Ramadan which begins in the South Asian nation on April 14, including banning the entry of people older than 50 years and adolescents in mosques and shrines during the holy month.
Mosques around the country will remain open during Ramadan with strict adherence to COVID-19 standard operating procedures, the government has said.
Last year after the coronavirus first broke out, a restriction on congregation provoked a backlash in Pakistan, with attacks on police as they attempted to halt prayers at mosques.
Health experts have repeatedly warned that congregations pose the biggest threat to Pakistan’s limited health care resources and infrastructure, which will crumble under the weight of a wide-spread outbreak of the coronavirus.
“Rows of the praying individuals should be aligned so that there is a distance of 6 feet between individuals,” the National Command And Operation Center said in published guidelines, saying people should perform ablutions at home. “It is obligatory that mask is worn before coming to mosque or imambargah and not to shake hands or hug anyone in the mosque.”
Unlike in the past, the government said sehr and iftar, the meals to keep and break the fast respectively, should not be held at mosques or shrines. Typically, mass sehr and iftars are held for poor people at mosques in Muslim countries. The ban will also apply to the seclusion of Itikaf when Muslims spend the last 10 days of the month in mosques to pray and meditate, with the government asking people to seclude at home.
“If during Ramzan, the government feels that these precautionary measures are not being observed or the number of affectees has risen to a dangerous level, then the government will revise its policy related to mosques and imambargahs, as for other departments,” the NCOC said. “The government has also the right to change the orders and policy regarding severely affected specific areas.”