Pakistan meets no pre-requisites for easing restrictions says WHO

WHO advised Pakistan to impose  lockdown for two weeks

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reminded the Punjab government that restrictions were eased without achieving any prerequisites for lifting the restrictions. The WHO has also advised the government to impose intermittent lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
The letter dated June 7 has been penned by Dr Palitha Mahipala and addressed to health minister Punjab Dr Yasmin Rashid.  WHO Country Head for Pakistan, and states that the coronavirus has spread to almost all districts in the country, with major cities making up a majority of national cases.
In this letter, Dr Palitha has mentioned the measures taken by the government to stop the spread of virus. "Government intervention on April 12 detailing social distancing measures, including movement restrictions, closure of schools and businesses, international travel restrictions, and geographical area restrictions were instituted with the aim of limiting the spread of the disease."
The letter has clearly stated that the partial relaxation of restrictions on May 01 and then complete relaxation on May22 caused the increase in the spread of coronavirus.    ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER AD

The WHO has set 6 conditions to meet before lifting the restrictions and lockdown. Any government that wishes to lift lockdown restrictions must meet this set of conditions. The letter noted that so far, Pakistan has not met any of the conditions which include:
1 -Disease transmission is under control
2- Health systems can "detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact"
3- Hot spot risks are minimised in vulnerable places
4- Schools, workplaces and other essential places should have preventive measures
5- The risk of importing new cases can be managed
6- Communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to live under a new normal
"The positivity rate is high, the surveillance system is weak, there is limited capacity to provide for critical patients and the population is not ready to adapt to change in behaviour," the letter stated, adding that Pakistan's reproductive number (R), which is an estimate for the number of individuals infected by each carrier, is also greater than 1.
The WHO recommended that strategic decisions should be taken to either tighten or loosen public health measures. "These difficult decisions will require the need to balance the response directly to Covid-19 which includes intermittent lockdowns of targeted areas."
Stressing the need for ramping up testing capacity beyond 50,000 tests per day and strengthening public health measures, the WHO recommended that the government enforce a "two weeks on, two weeks off strategy" as it offers the smallest infection curve.
Pakistan's coronavirus cases surpassed the 100,000 mark last week. As of June 9, more than 110,000 Covid-19 cases and 2,000 deaths have been reported.
Dr Yasmin Rashid has responded to the letter saying that whatever the WHO had said was correct and that the government would "consider" it. It has already been proposed to lockdown areas where a large number of cases are being reported but this decision will be taken by the cabinet committee.
"The main thing that they have said is to ensure implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs). This discussion has already taken place. In his last meeting, the Punjab chief minister stressed on taking action in areas where there are violations.
"The current situation, whatever WHO says, right now we can also treat patients. The purpose of a lockdown is to prevent flooding of hospitals. We have a contingency plan [...] right now we have the capacity [to treat patients] and will increase it in the next 10 to 15 days."
                                                           Rukhsana Manzoor deputy editor

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