The number of coronavirus infections in Pakistan surpassed the 200,000 mark yesterday as authorities imposed restrictions in major cities across the country in a struggle to control the spread of the virus.
The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases rose to 202,944 and related deaths reached 4,118.
The Covid-19 respiratory disease is caused by the coronavirus.
At least 4,072 new cases and 83 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed yesterday.
More than 92,000, or 45%, of people infected have recovered whereas 2,805 are in critical condition at hospitals.
Pakistan reported its first coronavirus case on February 26 and is now among the top 15 countries most affected.
The numbers of infections swelled after the government lifted lockdown restrictions last month.
More than 100,000 new cases were reported during the last 20 days, whereas government projections suggest the number may go up to 225,000 by June 30.
Officials say the country is still at least a month away from the projected peak of the pandemic.
Violations of lockdown guidelines prompted authorities to seal markets, shopping malls, and residential areas in several parts of the country.
Virus hotspots in 20 major cities have been under a “smart lockdown” since June 14.
The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has advised the government to reimpose a strict lockdown to stem the spread of the virus.
While Pakistan’s tally of the coronavirus cases crossed the 200,000 mark, the National Co-ordination and Operation Centre (NCOC) met to discuss the reasons for a sudden decline in the number of daily tests and new cases in the past week.
The NCOC meeting, which was attended by the chief secretaries and health secretaries of all the provinces, compared the tally of tests conducted on June 21 and 26, and found that the number of new cases across the country dropped by around 40% from 7,000 to 4,000 a day.
They discussed different factors such as testing, smart lockdown and awareness campaigns regarding precautionary measures that could have contributed to drop in the number of new cases.
It was observed that the number of tests declined by 64% in Sindh.
On June 21, it was observed, 30,520 tests for the coronavirus were conducted across the country.
Of these, 13,890 tests were conducted in Sindh, 9,598 in Punjab, 3,416 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), 2,545 in Islamabad, 707 in Baluchistan, 247 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), and 117 tests were conducted in Gilgit-Baltistan.
On June 26, they noted, the number of Covid-19 tests dropped to 21,033 in the country.
Of these, 9,353 were conducted in Punjab, 5,103 in Sindh, 2,913 in KP, 2,463 in Islamabad, 881 in Baluchistan, 286 in AJK, and 34 in Gilgit-Baltistan.
According to an NCOC statement, the Sindh health secretary informed the participants that the number of tests that declined due to some administrative reason would be increased in next two to three days.
The health secretaries of other provinces also informed the meeting that the demand for Covid-19 test had reduced, as fewer patients were visiting hospitals.
Some experts expressed concern over the emerging trend that people were preferring to isolate themselves at homes rather than go get tested.
The participants at the meeting noted that the number of patients having Covid-19 symptoms was on the decline, while people’s movement across Pakistan had been reduced due to the 542 lockdowns enforced in 20 cities.
Moreover, provincial officials also briefed the meeting about the implementation of precautionary measures in industries, markets, transport, courts, government offices, mosques, and public places.
They claimed that improvement was observed at most of the places.
Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar appreciated the performance of all the provinces and field staff, due to which the number of cases decreased across the country.
“We need to ensure use of face masks and social distancing so that the deadly virus would be controlled. We are ready to provide more polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines and testing kits as per their requirements,” he said.
Meanwhile, around 30,000 doctors, nurses and paramedics completed training under “WeCare” programme, while 100,000 more healthcare workers will be trained to provide treatment to Covid-19 patients and ensure their own safety.
According to a statement of the ministry of national health services, the programme was launched to protect doctors, nurses, paramedics and support staff from infection while performing their duties.
The ministry data indicated that more than 3,500 healthcare workers from AJK, GB and Islamabad, 9,700 from KP, 6,500 from Punjab, 8,700 from Sindh, and more than 1,600 doctors, paramedics and support staff from Baluchistan have completed the training.
The ministry’s spokesperson said that healthcare workers from all over the country could register themselves for the training programme through the official website wecare.nhsrc.gov.pk.
“Thousands of healthcare workers from across the country have already registered to participate in the training programme, which is being conducted for one hour online as per the given schedule,” he said. “In the training programme, specialist doctors are providing guidance to healthcare workers on the proper use of personal protective equipment and ensuring their safety.”
The training programme was launched last month considering that doctors and paramedical staff engaged in the treatment of coronavirus patients are at high risk of contracting the disease.
According to the official statement, the ministry is also ensuring delivery of safety equipment to hospitals and intensive care units.
In a short period of time, it said, the government successfully overcame the challenging phase of manufacturing and supplying personal protective equipment as per the national demand.