ISLAMABAD: Pakistan would likely see the number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases peak around the end of June, the government’s planning minister announced on Wednesday as the country recorded its highest daily death rate since the start of the outbreak.
Speaking at a media briefing in Islamabad, Asad Umer, who heads the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), said: “On the basis of available data from the last two months and also after analyzing world data, we are expecting the peak of COVID-19 in Pakistan somewhere between the end of June and early July.”
The NCOC has been responsible for coordinating Pakistan’s response to the deadly virus pandemic. The minister attributed a recent sharp rise in infection rates to increased COVID-19 testing capacity which had risen from around 2,000 to more than 8,000 tests over the past two weeks.
“Right now, the number (of known cases) is above 15,000, but still this data is not conclusive as there may be many other people out there who have not been tested so far,” he said, adding that with 26 deaths in the past 24 hours the country had witnessed its highest daily mortality rate, bringing the toll to 335.
In its testing efforts, Pakistan relies on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which according to Umer are 70 percent accurate.
Dr. Zafar Mirza, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special assistant on public health, said there were currently 52 laboratories throughout the country testing samples for the virus.
Despite the rising number of cases, the Pakistani government was planning to partly lift its transportation lockdown ahead of the Eid holidays next month.
“We are making very stringent SOPs (standard operating procedures) for the opening of public transport as we have to open intercity and interprovincial bus services by the end of Ramadan to facilitate the public to travel to their homes before Eid,” Umer said.
The NCOC consists of provincial and federal institutions as well as the military and its standing committee is chaired by Mirza. “Federal and provincial information ministries are also part of the NCOC to help us spread relevant information,” Umer added.
The safety of medical staff was one of the key issues for Pakistan in fighting to stop the spread of COVID-19 and Mirza said a special scheme had been set up for them.
“We are focusing on the safety of health workers as 480 of them have contracted COVID-19, which is a cause of great concern for us. We have designed a protection and support program for frontline health workers and the federal cabinet has approved a special package for them,” he added.