ISLAMABAD: Pakistani authorities on Tuesday urged people to strictly follow public health guidelines amid fears of a “third wave” of COVID-19 infections around the country.
“We are trying our best to take all necessary measures to control the infections, but it is almost impossible without public support,” Sajid Hussain Shah, a spokesperson for the Ministry of National Health Services and Regulations, told Arab News on Tuesday.
He said that the government had imposed lockdowns in virus hotspots, including the capital Islamabad and some areas of the populous Punjab province.
“We request the public to strictly follow health guidelines for their own benefit,” he said.
The South Asian nation of 220 million reported 2,511 new infections and 58 deaths in the past 24 hours, while 1,895 patients were in critical condition across the country.
The rate of people testing positive in June last year was as high as 23 percent, but dropped to 1.7 percent by September. It began to increase again, reaching 7.45 percent in January before dropping to 3 percent by mid-February and then climbing to 7.1 percent in March.
In recent weeks, senior Pakistani ministers have claimed that a third wave of the epidemic was gathering momentum, leading to an uptick in the number of infections and hospitalization rate.
Shah agreed that hospital admissions and deaths from coronavirus are on the rise, but said that the government has increased the number of medical facilities to handle the situation.
However, Dr. Qaisar Sajjad, secretary-general of the Pakistan Medical Association, warned that hospitals were fast running out of capacity due to a sharp increase in infections and admissions.
“It’s high time the government started mass vaccination across Pakistan to save precious lives and the fragile national economy,” he told Arab News.
Pakistan began the second phase of its coronavirus vaccination campaign last week, with people over 60 eligible to register for the first dose of China’s Sinopharm vaccine.
Authorities have also started walk-in vaccinations at treatment centers for people over 70.
Previously, people had to receive a text from authorities informing them of the designated vaccination center and the time of their appointment.
Dr. Khalid Mahmood, a public health specialist at the Rawalpindi Institute of Urology, said the virus variant was “deadlier and more lethal” than the previous one and that the number of patients on ventilators was still increasing.
“We have run out of capacity and are working to increase the number of beds for coronavirus patients,” Mahmood told Arab News.
He said that his hospital had increased the number of coronavirus beds from 50 to 66 this week due to a surge in admissions.
“People should strictly follow social distancing, wash their hands and avoid gatherings,” he said.
Mahmood said that most of his colleagues had received the Sinopharm jab and none had developed any serious side effects.
“It’s a safe and effective vaccine, and people should get the jabs as early as possible to fight the virus,” he said.