Govt decides to ‘fully activate’ NCOC as Covid cases surge

News Desk & Our Correspondent
Thursday, Jun 30, 2022

ISLAMABAD: The federal government Wednesday decided to fully activate the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) in the light of rising coronavirus cases across the country.

A statement from PM's Office said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chaired an NCOC meeting, where he expressed concerns over the rising Covid-19 cases and issued directives to revive Pakistan’s coronavirus response forum.

The premier ordered district and provincial authorities to strictly implement protective measures and take other steps to keep the deadly virus at bay. The NCOC had stopped functioning at the end of March after running operations for two years and leading Pakistan's response to Covid-19, while all its roles were handed over to the National Institute of Health (NIH).

In a press conference after the decision, Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel said that the public will have to follow Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) till the coronavirus was prevalent. “We are mulling over strategies for religious gatherings as the threat of coronavirus cases rising still persists,” he said. The health minister added that the government has also decided to increase Covid testing as till now only those who had symptoms were being tested. He said the government will begin vaccinating children aged 5 to 12 in next month or two while the campaign for booster shots will be initiated again. As many as 6.8 million Pfizer doses are being arranged for administering to children up to 12 years, the health minister said. “We will also have to ensure SOPs’ implementation at mandis (cattle markets).”

The decision to revive the NCOC comes as Pakistan's daily Covid-19 case count crossed the 500-mark for the first time in three months amid a constant rise in the recent countrywide spread of the disease, the NIH’s data showed Wednesday morning. The country reported 541 new Covid-19 infections overnight, pushing Pakistan's positivity ratio above 3% again. The new infections were detected after countrywide diagnostic testing on 15,462 samples, as per the data.

The Covid-19 positivity dropped to 2.4% as per the statistics issued on Tuesday. However, after the recent rise in cases, the country's Covid-19 positivity rate swelled to 3.5% in a single day.

Meanwhile, the number of patients being treated in critical care units (CCUs) also surged to 100, while one person infected with Covid-19 died in the last 24 hours. With the new additions, the total number of deaths rose to 30,392 and the number of active cases climbed to 5,269.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz has urged people to use masks and sanitizers in cattle markets, weddings and private gatherings on the eve of Eidul Azha.

He was chairing a meeting in Islamabad on Wednesday, to review the Covid situation in the country. The meeting was attended by federal ministers Abdul Qadir Patel, Rana Sanaullah, Sherry Rehman, chairman NDMA, secretary information, secretary National Health Services and relevant senior officers.

The chief secretaries of the four provinces besides Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan attended the meeting through video link. Paying tribute to the services of NCOC, doctors and health workers in the fight against Covid, the prime minister said those health workers who died during the pandemic sacrificed themselves to protect the people. He directed the NCOC and provincial chief secretaries to ensure implementation of SOPs and increase public awareness in this regard.

The meeting was briefed in detail about the Covid situation at national as well as international level. It was informed that there was an overall declining trend in the number of Covid cases worldwide but following the last wave of Omicron, the new variant of Omicron has recently led to an increase in cases in Pakistan, which exceeded the national rate of 3 percent.

The meeting was informed that 86 percent of the country's population has been fully vaccinated while 93 percent has received at least one dose. Currently, the country has the capacity to vaccinate more than 200,000 people per day.

The meeting was further informed that the entire population of Sindh has been fully vaccinated while in Punjab and other provinces, the process of vaccination is in final phase. The meeting was further informed that steps are also being taken to closely monitor the movement at borders to track Covid cases and the fast track app is being made easier for users. a