ISLAMABAD: With the second wave of Covid-19 intensifying, the number of coronavirus cases being reported on a daily basis crossed the 1,500 mark for the first time since July on Saturday.As many as 1,763 cases were reported on July 23 after which the number gradually fell to fewer than 300 in September. The country saw the highest number of daily cases on June 14 when 6,825 people contracted the virus.On the other hand, health experts have criticised the government’s recent decision to impose Rs100 fine on those not wearing masks and allow 1,000 guests at outdoor weddings.Due to the continuous violation of health guidelines, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Friday had decided to fine violators Rs100 and provide them three masks on the spot. It also announced that from Nov 20 onwards, wedding events will be held in open areas with a maximum of 1,000 guests.Experts assail govt measures to check virus spreadThe NCOC also directed that only 50 per cent staff may work from their offices, both in the public and private sectors, while the remaining from home.According to the centre’s data, 1,543 people tested positive for the virus on Saturday while the number of active cases, which was less than 6,000 last month, has reached 17,520.As many as 129 ventilators, out of 1,857 allocated for Covid-19 treatment, were in use with no patient on vent in Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan.Talking to Dawn, University of Health Sciences (UHS) Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Javed Akram said the rise in cases was expected as 90 per cent of the people had started ignoring standard operating procedures.

“The fact is that the virus was subdued due to the hot weather, and with the change in temperature, it has started to spread rapidly,” he said.Replying to a question, Dr Akram said the Rs100 fine was nothing but a joke, suggesting that up to Rs10,000 fine should be announced to create a deterrence.“Allowing 1,000 guests at a wedding function is also unacceptable. I suggest not more than 100 people should attend such events. By permitting outdoor functions, people might get an impression that the virus does not affect people in an open area. However, they should know that US President Donald Trump and his staff contracted the virus from the Rose Garden of the White House,” he said.About the phase-III clinical trial of a potential vaccine, the vice chancellor, who is also a member of the Scientific Task Force on Covid-19, said 3,000 volunteers had been vaccinated across the country and the results on its tolerance and efficacy have so far been satisfactory. However, he said results would be shared after 10,000 volunteers received shots of the vaccine.

Pakistan Medical Association general secretary Dr Qaiser Sajjad told Dawn that a minimum Rs1,000 fine should be imposed on violators and 100 to 150 people permitted to attend wedding events. Guests should also be given takeaways instead of serving them lunch or dinner at the event, he added.“The virus in this second spell seems to be more lethal as nine doctors have died in the last three weeks. The PMA had observed that the majority of patients on ventilators were not recovering so we need to avoid putting them on vents as there was a possibility that the machines were damaging their lungs. China had also taken a similar decision,” he said.Dr Sajjad urged the government to distribute free masks and regulate their prices as well as of sanitisers so that they were affordable for people.He feared that with the increase in cases, medicines, oxygen cylinders and other necessary items might disappear from the markets, therefore, it was all the more important for the relevant departments to ensure their availability at affordable rates.Meanwhile, Ministry of National Health Services spokesperson Sajid Shah said all possible efforts were being made to control the virus.“The NCOC meets on a daily basis with all stakeholders brainstorming on ways to protect people from the deadly virus,” he added.

Courtesy: Published in Dawn, November 8th, 2020

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