Punjab tightens restrictions as coronavirus cases spike


Lahore – Staff Reporter:

The Punjab government has tightened restrictions across the province to control the COVID-19 spread, especially in Lahore.

Chief Minister Usman Buzdar announced the new restrictions at a press conference on Monda.

Buzdar’s announcement comes after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Coronavirus which reviewed the pandemic situation.

The session was attended by provincial ministers Raja Basharat, Dr Yasmin Rahsid, Mian Aslam Iqbal, Murad Raas, Yasir Humayon, Firdous Ashiq Awan and other senior government officials.

Under the new restrictions, bans have been placed on mass transit, wedding ceremonies, indoor and outdoor gatherings and other recreational activities.

Restaurants can only keep takeaway and delivery open, while all shops will close at 6pm.

No ban has been placed on economic activities. Strict compliance, however, has to be observed with the standard operating procedures.

Buzdar urged the masses to show responsibility to follow the SOPs given by the health authorities. “We can not control the pandemic without help from the masses.”

The restrictions will come into force from April 1 and will remain in place until April 11.

Punjab COVID-19 situation worsens

The COVID-19 situation in the provincial capital has worsened further despite smart lockdowns and other restrictions.

Special Assistant to the Chief Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said people are not following the coronavirus SOPs and the results are not encouraging from Lahore and other five major cities of the province where the authorities have imposed smark lockdowns.

The surge in Lahore is overwhelming hospitals, as the death count and new patients spike in what could be the worst stretch of the pandemic to date in the province.

One of the largest state-owned health facilities in Lahore, Mayo Hospital, has a total of 325 beds in its coronavirus ward. On Sunday, 253 beds were occupied, therefore more than 77%.

“The situation is pretty bad here,” a senior doctor at Mayo Hospital told Geo.tv, on the condition of anonymity, “We are not accepting serious patients anymore because our Intensive Care Units (ICUs) are working at full capacity.”

96 cases filed over violations in Lahore

Meanwhile, the Lahore administration has filed nearly 100 cases over SOP violations. CCPO Lahore Ghulam Mohammad Dogar said that joint teams have been constituted to check violation of government directives.

According to the latest government data, 2,309 new cases were reported during the last 24 hours taking the total number of cases to 215,227 in Punjab.

Out of these new cases 1,478 have been reported in Lahore, 22 in Shekhupura, 145 in Rawalpindi, 45 in Sialkot, 21 in Gujrat, 77 in Multan, 29 in Khanweal, 120 in Faisalabad, 29 in Chiniot, 44 in Toba Tek Singh, and 24 in Jhang.

However, the death toll has risen to 6.244 after 17 more succumbed to the virus while 185,877 have recovered from the disease.

Highest single-day toll

Punjab recorded 2,823 new COVID-19 infections on March 27, surpassing the previous record of 2,705 set on July 12. Officials say that the province is in the grip of third wave of the virus, which is being driven by a UK-variant of the disease.

Majority of the new cases were recorded in Lahore alone, the capital of Punjab. In the city, on Saturday, 1,725 people tested positive for the deadly virus, which was the second-highest tally reported in the city since the outbreak in Pakistan in late February last year.

Separately, Punjab’s cities – Faisalabad, Lahore and Gujranwala – have continued to record the highest test positive percentage in the country, much above the WHO-mandated 5%.

Meanwhile, the province will be entering its third phase of the vaccination drive on Sunday as it begins to vaccinate people over 50 years of age in the province.