The federal government Wednesday decided to "fully activate” the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) in light of the rising coronavirus cases across the country.
A statement from PM Office said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chaired an NCOC meeting, where he expressed concerns over the rising COVID-19 cases and issued directives to revive Pakistan’s coronavirus response forum.
The premier ordered district and provincial authorities to strictly implement protective measures and take other steps to keep the deadly virus at bay.
The NCOC stopped functioning at the end of March after running operations for two years and leading Pakistan's response to COVID-19, while all its roles were handed over to the National Institute of Health (NIH).
In a press conference after the decision, Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel said that the public will have to follow standard operating procedures (SOPs) till the coronavirus is prevalent.
“We are mulling over strategies for religious gatherings as the threat of coronavirus cases rising still persists,” he said. The health minister added that the government has also decided to increase COVID testing as till now only those who had symptoms were being tested.
He said that the government will soon begin vaccinating children under 12 years of age while the campaign for booster shots will be initiated again. “We will also have to ensure SOPs’ implementation at mandis (cattle market).”
The decision to revive NCOC comes as Pakistan's daily COVID-19 case count crossed the 500-mark for the first time in three months amid a constant rise in the recent countrywide spread of the disease, the NIH’s data showed Wednesday morning.
The country reported 541 new COVID-19 infections overnight, pushing Pakistan's positivity ratio above 3% again. The new infections were detected after countrywide diagnostic testing on 15,462 samples, as per the data.
The COVID-19 positivity dropped to 2.4% as per the statistics issued on Tuesday. However, after the recent rise in cases, the country's COVID-19 positivity rate swelled to 3.5% in a single day.
Meanwhile, the number of patients being treated in critical care units (CCUs) also surged to 100, while one person infected with COVID-19 died in the last 24 hours.
With the new additions, the total number of deaths rose to 30,392 and the number of active cases climbed to 5,269.
Established inside the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) Secretariat in Islamabad, NCOC was set up in March 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to collect, analyse and process information.
The NCOC is the entity in charge of Pakistan's COVID-19 efforts, policies and implementation and makes suggestions to the Prime Minister's National Coordination Committee for timely actions related to the national COVID-19 response, NHS official said, adding that it includes specialists from both the civil and military institutions.