LAHORE, November 29:

PUNJAB HEALTH MINISTER WARNS OF STRONG SECOND WAVE 1

Punjab Health Minister has warned of a strong and severe second wave of Corona Pandemic in Punjab urging utmost caution till the introduction of new vaccine. Speaking at a Press Conference at the Chief Minister Secretariat on Sunday, the Health Minister said that cases that were reduced to less than 100 a day around mid September, have now increased manifolds. She said 2979 people had died due to COVID-19 so far in Punjab and in the last 24 hours, 19 people have lost their lives. 

Present on the occasion were Special Secretary Specialized Healthcare and Medical Education Department Iqbal Ahmed, Additional Secretary Admin Primary & Secretary Healthcare Department Ms. Sara Rashid, Ms. Rubina Afzal from Directorate General Public Relations Punjab, senior officials and the media representatives. 

The Health Minister said, “We have continuously asked people to follow SOPs in the last few months as Corona Pandemic had not ended. Now we have seen a sudden rise in the number of cases. Patients with moderate to severe symptoms are admitted in hospitals only. Currently 997 people are admitted to hospitals out of whom 145 are on ventilators and 475 are on oxygenated beds and 16,204 patients are in Quarantine/Self Isolation. Healthcare staff are fighting on frontline and as many as 2638 health members got infected. The cities worst affected are Lahore, Rawalpindi, Multan, Faisalabad and Gujranwala. In Gujranwala the Test to Positivity ratio has increased to 4 per cent. Around 25 days back, the Positivity ratio in Multan reached 31 per cent and after a lot of hard work it was reduced to 17 per cent and although it has been brought down to 12 per cent, it still remains highest in Punjab. The increase in Positivity Ratio is seriously alarming in Punjab. Similarly, in Multan out of all beds reserved for COVID-19 patients, 65 per cent are occupied and 41 ventilators out of a total of 68 are currently in use.”

The Health Minister said that currently smart lockdowns were enforced in 2030 localities of the province restricting movement of almost 40,000 people. She said the reason of a strong second wave is utter disregard for SOPs by people. She added that by the end of summers, cases had come down significantly in the first wave due to which the government had opened up educational institutions and businesses. She said now everyone was worried and the government has placed restrictions on business and closed down educational institutions. 

Dr. Yasmin Rashid further said, “The government had sent face masks and hand sanitizers in Gujranwala gathering which were turned down by opposition. Afterwards we saw Positivity Ratio going up in Gujranwala. All statistics of the Pandemic are shared with public and if the cases continue to increase, we will have to enforce lockdowns. Our performance was acknowledged and appreciated by UN and WHO experts. With the joint efforts of stakeholders, we were able to return to normal life. Currently Peshawar is seeing a high Positivity Ratio. Wherever there are huge public gatherings, the risk of surge multiplies. The Government’s first priority is to mitigate risk to lives of people. To bring economy on track, we will have to stop the spread of COVID-19. We closed education institutions with a heavy heart. The use of face mask we can reduce the risk of spread of virus by 70 per cent. We have asked opposition that political activities and gathering may continue in routine any time but currently we are facing a crisis situation and no one should play with the lives of people. The love of country must be beyond your own interests and safety of people’s lives must be first priority. As doctor and as Health Minister I am under great stress to control the Pandemic. Opposition may start their activities once the Pandemic is under control.”

Responding to queries of journalists, the Health Minister said that Punjab’s testing capacity was increased manifolds and 18 BSL-3 labs were added taking the cumulative capacity from 20 to 25 thousand. The government nearly 10,000 Oxygenated beds, ventilators reserved for COVID-19 were increased to 2500 and 50 beds for Corona patients were increased in Multan. All necessary medicines and PPE have been provided in adequate numbers. All health professionals have been directed to observe extra precautions. Some hospitals have been specified for COVID-19 patients and currently 61 patients are on ventilators in Mayo Hospital. The closure of routine OPD services in first wave had affected a lot of lot therefore the routine OPDs may continue as usual in the second wave. She said vaccine may come in a few months till then all must comply with the SOPs as immune system is not at its full strength in winters. She said public gatherings in the USA continued resulting in increased mortality. She said the Pandemic does not see any ethnic, racial and religious boundaries and politicians must lead people in times of crisis. She said for people like Bilawal can afford expensive healthcare facilities but a common man has nowhere to go except public sector hospitals. 

She also said that the government has hired 32,000 doctors through transparent process and distributed Sehat Insaf Cards among 5.2 million families. Prime Minister Imran Khan has granted approval to provide universal health coverage to all 22 million families of Punjab. She said the appeal to stop public gatherings was made only to control the Pandemic otherwise the government was not interested in stopping the political activities. To a question on cases on re-infections, the Minister said that complete research was being done on such cases by experts. She said a committee shares its recommendations about the selections on heads of Teaching Institutions, The notification on MTI has been issued already and initially it will be enforced at the KEMU and Sialkot Medical College.

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