NCOC urges safety steps as daily corona cases jump

News Desk
Friday, Jan 14, 2022

Ag Agencies

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday recorded more than 3,000 coronavirus cases, its largest increase in daily infections in more than four months, prompting the National Command and Operation Centre to stress the enforcement of precautionary measures and stepping up vaccinations for students.

According to NCOC data, of the 49,270 people tested in the 24-hours leading to Thursday, 3,019 turned out positive. The country’s positivity ratio leapt to 6.12 per cent from the previous day’s 4.70 per cent. A positivity above 5 per cent shows a contagion is on the rise, according to the World Health Organisation. Critical care patients also rose to 651 from the previous day’s 628. Deaths remained in the single digits, at five.

The rapid increase in infections was followed by an NCOC meeting, which was chaired by National Coordinator Maj-Gen Zafar Iqbal, and also attended by Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan.

The NCOC agreed upon taking strict measures regarding obligatory vaccination regime and issued directives to relevant quarters to ensure the enforcement and strict implementation of existing NPIs (non-pharmaceutical interventions).

Provinces were asked to strictly enforce existing NPIs, especially in transport, education and sectors which host large social gatherings like restaurants and wedding halls. It also directed the acceleration of the vaccination drive and ramp up testing, including rapid antigen testing (RAT).

Provincial representatives in their briefing to NCOC through video link, agreed upon taking more measures to increase the number of tests, accelerate the vaccination drive and strict enforcement of NPIs.

Thus far more than 165 million doses of vaccines have been administered, including over 821,000 in the past 24 hours. The NCOC was told that some 159,000 students were vaccinated during that period, while cumulatively, the figure is around 4.86 million. With that figure, 45 per cent of eligible students are fully vaccinated. The forum was told that students are being given a special focus for vaccination. Of the total eligible population, 49 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, a meeting of education ministers to deliberate on whether or not to close schools during the Omicron-driven fifth wave was delayed to next week.

A notification from the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training was circulated shortly before the scheduled start of 11am of the meeting, which said the 34th meeting of the Inter-Provincial Education Ministers Conference (IPEMC) will be held next week. No reasons were provided.

However, later in the evening, Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood tweeted that he had tested positive for the coronavirus. “I have unfortunately tested positive for coronavirus. My symptoms are mild so far and I feel fine. Hopefully with some rest will recover soon. Please continue to take all precautions specially wearing a mask at all time,” he said.

Meanwhile, Punjab Education Minister Murad Raas suggested curtailing “every other activity, especially social activity” before schools are closed. “For all the inquirers whether Schools are closing or not? In my opinion, every other activity especially social activity has to be stopped before schools. Schools should be the absolute last in line to close. The learning losses of our children in the past two years — Unimaginable.”