Islamabad, Nov 11 (PTI) Pakistan is contemplating new measures to combat the coronavirus after at least 1,708 new COVID-19 cases were detected in the last 24 hours, taking the national tally to 348,184 on Wednesday.
Around 21 patients died in this period as the COVID-19 death toll reached 7,021, reported the Ministry of National Health Services.
The ministry data showed that some 320,065 people have fully recovered while 1,109 were in critical condition.
The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) in its meeting chaired by Federal Minister for Planning Asad Umar discussed the option to limit the public gatherings and enhance restrictions on high-risk areas.
The forum was informed that the number of cases have nearly tripled since the NCOC's earlier recommendation, on October 12 and then on November 3, to the National Coordination Committee (NCC) to ban large public gatherings and outdoor activities. However, no consensus has yet been reached by the stakeholders.
The meeting was informed that the positivity rate was increasing in educational institutions and there was a need to check the trend. It was decided that the federal education minister would chair a meeting of provincial education ministers on November 16 to review its situation.
'Other recommendations put forth by the body are to limit public gatherings – political, religious, cultural, entertainment and civil society in nature – to a maximum of 500 people,” according to a statement.
It was also recommended in the meeting to limit restaurants and eateries to outdoor dining till 10pm and takeaways. Other suggestions included the closure of shrines in the country and early closure of markets with designated 'safe-days'. It was suggested to increase restrictions for high-risk sectors.
The NCOC appreciated adherence to SOPs in mosques for the last many months. However, it noted a decline in compliance at present and urged the stakeholders to keep following the procedures in place.
Later Minister Umar tweeted that daily cases had nearly tripled since mid-October, when the National Coordination Committee (NCC) chaired by the Prime Minister first considered the NCOC recommendation to ban large public gatherings.
'NCOC has once again recommended to ban all large public gatherings. Rapid increase in positivity requires urgent steps to save lives & livelihoods,” he tweeted.
The NCOC -- the nerve centre to synergise and articulate unified national effort against COVID-19 -- was briefed on Tuesday about the threat of rising positivity as the rate of coronavirus cases once again surpassed five per cent after a gap of over three months, the Dawn News reported.
The highest increase of 16.71 per cent was observed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), followed by Balochistan (8.71 per cent), Sindh (5.39 per cent), Punjab (4.46 per cent) and Gilgit-Baltistan (3.24 per cent); while in Islamabad and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, cases were decreased by 4.92 per cent and 4.61 per cent , respectively.
In Pakistan, the maximum positivity rate had reached 23% in June. It was brought down to 1.7% in September, the report said.
Positivity rate is the percentage of positive results out of the total number of tests sampled.
The positivity rate was 11.79 per cent on March 30, 19.95 per cent on May 25 and 22.24 per cent on June 1. Later, it started dropping and reached 16 per cent on July 6, 3 per cent on August 10 and 1.7 per cent on September 21. An upward trend in the positivity rate was spotted the following month as it reached 2.49 per cent on October 19, 4.26 per cent on November 2 and 5.13 per cent on November 10.
Similarly, the trend of new admissions due to COVID-19 has also started rising as 131 patients were admitted in hospitals, across the country, as compared to 46 on October 5, the report said.
The NCOC was informed that among healthcare workers, 8,573 cases were confirmed which was 3 per cent of overall COVID-19 cases.
According to the latest data released by NCOC, the number of active COVID-19 in Pakistan has increased by more than 14,000 cases in the last eight weeks. The total number of active cases on November 10 was 20,045 as against 5,831 on September 14. PTI SH SCY MRJ