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Pakistan reports 201 Covid-19 deaths in highest daily total


ISLAMABAD: Pakistan registered 201 fatalities from Covid-19 on Wednesday, the highest number of deaths confirmed in a single day since the start of the pandemic in February last year, exceeding a peak of 153 during the first peak in June.

The daily death toll is published by the Ministry of National Health Services (MoNHS) and can include fatalities that took place days ago but were just confirmed to authorities on the day in question.

The high death rate follows a sharp increase in infections that started late in March following a relaxation of coronavirus restrictions in February.

The government portal keeping track of the outbreak in Pakistan has recorded more than 810,231 confirmed Covid-19 cases, including at least 17,530 deaths, since the start of the pandemic. Data suggested 5,292 new cases of infection were reported in the last 24 hours.

Most deaths have been reported from Punjab and Sindh — 8,224 and 4,624 respectively —  as the government last week approved the deployment of army troops nationwide to reinforce measures against coronavirus.

The current number of active cases across the country is around 88,207, whereas some 704,494 patients have so far recovered.

NATIONWIDE RESTRICTIONS:

Meanwhile, the government has directed provinces to prepare for a two-week quarantine in 20 cities starting May 2 and 3.

A communiqué sent from the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) to the provincial governments mentioned 20 cities nationwide where the coronavirus situation is severe and the restrictions imposed by the authorities have failed to arrest the spread of the contagion disease.

In the letter, titled “Input/Feedback — City Wise Lockdown”, the forum said that a two-week “city-wise lockdown in districts/cities with high disease prevalence is tentatively planned with effect from 2/3 May”.

“Therefore, you are requested to carry out necessary planning at your end,” read the letter.

The NCOC on Tuesday announced a new set of restrictions, including a blanket ban on tourism and inter-provincial transport during Eidul Fitr holidays.

The restrictions also include the closure of all tourist resorts, hotels, restaurants, shopping centers, parks, beaches, and other public places from May 8 to 16.

Travel nodes leading to the tourist destinations, particularly the valleys of Murree, Swat, and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), which attract hundreds of thousands of tourists from across the country during holidays, will also remain closed during the said period.

There will be a complete ban on inter-provincial and inter-city transport during the Eid holidays, except for the residents of GB, who will be allowed to travel to their hometowns.

The government and health officials have repeatedly warned that if the ongoing pace of infections continues in the coming days, the country may face a situation similar to India, where the surging pandemic has battered the already weak healthcare system.

According to MoNHS, in several district hospitals, including those in Lahore, over 90 percent of ventilators and oxygen beds are already occupied, raising new fears about the fatigued health system should the coronavirus cases slip out of control.

However, a day earlier, Minister of State for Health Dr Faisal Sultan said the government was increasing the domestic production of oxygen.

Dr Faisal said the government was preparing for a potential surge in infections, noting that the capacity of healthcare facilities was being increased.

In a reference to India, where the ongoing peak has faced issues with ensuring oxygen supply for critical for serious patients, he said a special committee of the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) was monitoring the situation in Pakistan.

The government has opted not to impose blanket restrictions seen in some other countries, saying such measures could endanger the lives of many who rely on daily wages. Instead, officials have said the percentage of tests returning positive would dictate what lockdown measures are taken in a given area.

But even in those areas measures such as markets being closed after 6:00 pm each day, and mask-wearing mandates have gone largely unenforced. With only around 2 million vaccine doses administered and supplies short, officials have pleaded with the public to follow the precautionary guidelines.





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