WHO recommends Punjab impose strict 2-week lockdown to stem COVID-19 spread

WHO says number of cases increased in Pakistan after the lockdown was eased

Amin Hafeez
Photo: File

The World Health Organisation has recommended enforcing a strict two-week lockdown in Punjab as the number of coronavirus cases continues to grow in the province.

In a letter to the Punjab government, WHO lauded the provincial government’s efforts in response to the pandemic.

“Government intervention on April 12th 2020 detailing social distancing measures including 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 said.

Photo: Geo News screenshot

The organisation said during the lockdown, the country was reporting 1,000 cases per day. However, this number increased after the federal government eased the lockdown in the country. “SOPs need to be strictly enforced to stem the spread of the virus,” the letter said.

Cases increasing beyond 100,000 in Pakistan is a cause for concern, WHO said.

WHO recommends that for any government that wants to start lifting restrictions, the following six conditions must be met:

  • Disease transmission is under control
  • Health system can “detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact”
  • Hot spot risks are minimized in vulnerable places, such as nursing homes
  • Schools, workplaces and other essential places have established preventive measures
  • The risk of importing new cases “can be managed”
  • Communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to live under a new normal

WHO strongly recommends that the government adopts the two weeks off and two weeks on strategy as it offers the smallest curve. It also recommends strengthening all public health measures such as quarantine, isolation, physical distancing and contact tracing.

Photo: Geo News screenshot

Given due consideration to the test positivity rate, developing testing capacity beyond 50,000 tests/day is extremely important, it said.

Scientists have predicted Pakistan is likely to reach the peak moment of its coronavirus outbreak by the end of June as the country records its highest one-day deaths so far.

“In the current scenario, the peak is expected from June 20 to end of the month,” Zafar Yasin, a scientist told Geo.tv.

Yasin, who is affiliated with the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), in Switzerland, and his colleagues Sohaib Hassan and Bilal Javed Mughal made the prediction based on a mathematical model called the “Susceptible-Exposed-Infectious-Recovered (SEIR)”.

As per the findings of Yasin’s team, Pakistan is predicted to record 210,000 to 226,000 coronavirus cases in total and 4,500 to 6,000 deaths by the end of August.

Furthermore, at its peak, it would be reporting close to 100 deaths per day.

If the government were to introduced a four-month lockdown in June, the paper explains, the number of daily cases could drop to 1,600 and delay the peak to July 20.

In case of a “no lockdown” strategy, 4250 – 5450 cases would be recorded every day.