Pakistan covid swab
A member of medical staff sorts and prepares viral transport medium (VTM) kits containing swabs for COVID-19 testing in the Bio Safety Lab (BSL) at the Indus Hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Islamabad: Pakistan’s health officials will review the reopening of public places as well as the school schedule amid the rising number of new coronavirus cases in the country since the beginning of March.

The latest meeting of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), chaired by federal minister for planning, development and special initiatives Asad Umar and attended by national coordinator Lt Gen Hamood Uz Zaman Khan as well as representatives from each province via video link discussed the possibility of delaying the opening of public places.

The NCOC officials discussed postponing the opening of cinemas, restaurants, and weddings halls which were expected to be allowed to open from March 15 after the country witnessed a continuous downward trend of the cases until this month.

In the last week of February, the country relaxed most of the coronavirus restrictions on commercial activities, schools, offices and other workplaces, after the continuous decline in cases. However, the number of cases surged dramatically after the restrictions were eased. Health officials have now warned of a third wave of coronavirus, urging the government to keep some restrictions in place and speed up the vaccination campaign.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan also said that the virus trend now appears to be reversing. “COVID-19 infections and hospitalisations in Pakistan are increasing once again. The decline seen over the past 2 months is clearly reversing as positivity has gone up from 3.31% to 4.16% within a week,” Dr Sultan issued the warning on March 5. He cautioned the citizens to “remember that the pandemic is not over” yet and urged them to follow the coronavirus guidelines - wear a mask, wash hands frequently and to avoid crowded places.

The country has also postponed the sixth edition of Pakistan Super League, the T20 cricket tournament, after some players tested positive for the coronavirus.

Pakistan recorded 1,353 cases and 54 deaths in the last 24 hours. Currently, there are 16,349 active coronavirus cases in the country. The country has reported a total of 593,453 COVID-19 cases and 13,281 coronavirus-related deaths since February 2020.