he total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pakistan has increased to 800,452 as the country has been battling a third wave of the coronavirus, the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) said on Monday.
In the last 24 hours, the country reported 4,825 new cases and 70 deaths, taking the nationwide death toll to 17,187, according to the NCOC. A total of 694,046 people have recovered from the disease.
With 290,788 confirmed cases, the country’s eastern Punjab province remained the worst-hit followed by southern Sindh province where 278,545 people have tested positive, said the NCOC.
Amid growing cases across the country, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said the standard operating procedures against COVID-19, if followed in letter and spirit, would help contain the virus.
If the situation continues to get worse, the government will have to impose lockdowns in cities, something the government does not want and cannot afford because in that case the poor laborers and the daily wagers will suffer the most, Khan said in a televised address recently.
To strictly enforce COVID-19 related measures, the Interior Ministry has issued a notification allowing the provinces and federal territories to seek help from the army.
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Other than restrictions already in place, Pakistan has recently taken fresh measures by closing schools in cities with over 5-percent positivity rate, banning indoor and outdoor dining, and reducing market and office timings. An inter-provincial transport ban and inbound travel restrictions on 23 countries have also been extended.
On Friday, Pakistan saw a record number of 157 deaths from COVID-19 since the outbreak of the pandemic in February of last year, forcing officials to deliberate on stricter measures to be implemented in the coming days if the situation further deteriorates.
The proposed measures include complete closure of less essential services, educational institutes and ban on inter-city public transport.
Meanwhile, the government has been actively pursuing a vaccination campaign, which was launched soon after Pakistan received China-donated vaccines in early February.
Health experts in the country warned that the continuous spike in the number of coronavirus cases could push Pakistan’s healthcare system to the brink of collapse.
“The recent rise in COVID-19 has put immense pressure on our healthcare system. Presently, over 80 percent of the country’s total oxygen capacity is being utilized by the hospitals, and if the situation worsens, we may need to import it from other countries,” Lubna Ansari Baig, a public health expert in the southern city of Karachi, told Xinhua.
Irresponsible behavior and carelessness on the part of the masses has been one of the major reasons behind the spread, she said, adding that “wider adoption of precautionary measures by the general public is an essential solution.”