ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar has said that the countrywide surge in coronavirus cases is getting worse, and if timely precautionary measures are not taken, there will be no beds available for patients in hospitals as happened in June this year.
Made these remarks while addressing a press conference along with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan here at the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) after chairing a high-level meeting held to discuss present coronavirus situation.
"We started issuing warnings in early October as we had anticipated that the situation will worsen if the COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) are not strictly followed," Asad Umar said.
He said if people did not change their approach to the Covid-19 challenge, this deadly virus will spiral out of control, appealing people to use facemask, sanitizers, and avoid public gatherings.
He said that back in June, more than 1,750 people across the country suffered from COVID-19-related complications and were in urgent need of oxygen.
Meanwhile, others had to be shifted to ventilators, he added.
"In June, people were concerned about not finding beds in hospitals as infections had peaked during the first wave," he recalled.
"Looking at the ongoing situation which arose over the last three weeks, we will be pushed back to a similar situation, if SOPs are not followed."
The minister added that in order to contain the rapid spread of Covid-19 the federal government will direct provincial administrations to speak to religious clerics and mosque imams, so that they could successfully persuade the masses to take precautionary measures once again.
While hailing the role of religious leaders in May and June, the minister said that mosques had played a vital role in controlling the coronavirus situation in the country but after that gradually people stopped following the SOPs.
Shedding light on the decisions of the National Coordination Committee (NCC), the minister said that the government had decided to among other measures, shut schools and ban indoor dining.
Citing the example of India and Western countries where thousands of people succumbed to the virus and lost their jobs, Asad Umar said the government does not want a similar situation to arise in Pakistan.
He also spoke against political gatherings and urged political leaders to spread awareness among their supporters.
He added that the National Assembly speaker had summoned a meeting of the parliamentary committee formed to tackle coronavirus after the NCOC wrote to them a letter.
The meeting, is expected to be attended by political leadership of all parties, Umar said.
"We will hopefully be able to sit and decide how to separate people's lives and livelihoods from politics," he said.
"It is the responsibility of political leaders to spread awareness among the masses regarding the infection. I would myself fail as a politician, if I endanger people's lives and livelihoods by holding large gatherings," he said. The minister said that a meeting of the parliamentary committee on coronavirus has been convened Wednesday (today), adding that he hopes political leadership present at the meeting will seriously consider the situation.
"I request the people of Pakistan to follow simple measures like not shaking hands, wearing masks, using hand sanitizers, and observing social distancing to control the pandemic," said Asad Umar.
"If we follow these easy steps, Allah will save us from the virus, just like He did during the first wave of the pandemic," the minister said.
"We know that when corona spreads, people's income is affected badly and we have seen this happens in the world's richest countries," he said, adding that the government does not want a situation where the lives and incomes of the masses are threatened.
"Obviously, any place where 10,000-40,000 people have gathered together, there is a danger of the disease spreading," he said, and added that in Tuesday's meeting, the Sindh health minister had pointed out that Ehsaas Programme's aid distribution centres pose a risk of an outbreak.
He also recalled that this is not the first time he has sounded the alarm regarding a rapid increase in cases.
Prime minister's aide Dr Faisal Sultan and he himself had warned of a second wave in early October, Umar said.
Briefing the media on the occasion, Faisal Sultan said that at present over 1,700 patients are in critical situation in various hospitals.
He said that a month ago Pakistan was recording up to 500 coronavirus patients, the number now has jumped to almost 3,000 patients daily.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2020