Lifting curbs does not mean COVID-19 is over: Asad Umar


Federal Minister Asad Umar says coronavirus has not been eliminated in Pakistan, credits effective implementation of COVID-19 SOPs for decline in number of cases. Photo: file

ISLAMABAD: Planning minister Asad Umar on Tuesday warned the nation not to fall back into old habits after COVID-19 restrictions were eased in almost all sectors a day earlier and keep in mind that the coronavirus is still very much a threat.

The federal minister said he had heard people saying the COVID-19 pandemic had been eliminated.

“Ever since this announcement [lifting lockdown restrictions] was made, I have been hearing from people that coronavirus has ended. I wish coronavirus would have been eliminated.

“However, unfortunately, the situation is not like that at the moment. We can’t say at this moment that coronavirus has been eliminated,” said the minister.

Speaking of a decline in cases, Umar credited the people of Pakistan, saying that they were the “real heroes” with whose cooperation the government had managed to bring about a drastic reduction in the infection. 

“Whatever steps were taken by the state and the government could not have been effective if the public had not cooperated with us,” he said. ” A large part of the society helped the government. I would like to thank the media as well for sending our message to the public on what to do [to ward off the coronavirus],” he added. 

The minister said that the government and the people had taken the right decisions and actions when it came to tackling the pandemic. He praised the smart lockdown initiative, stating that developed countries could also not shut down the economy for a longer period of time. 

Referring to a study by the Imperial College London referring to the large number of coronavirus deaths in the country, he said that only 15 people died from the infection on Monday as opposed to the thousands predicted by the college. 

He said that the provinces, Centre, the armed forces and other institutions collaborated to come up with a comprehensive strategy to deal with the virus in April.

“Due to it [contact tracing strategy] we were able to reach people who were at most risk of catching the infection,” he said. “We were able to trace 1.1 million contacts out of which one million tests were conducted and 10.5% was the positivity ratio of those who were tested,” Umar explained. 

The minister said that the government reached out to more than 100,000 positive cases through the contact tracing system and were able to let them know that they were infected with the virus. 

He said that not only did the tracing system lead to a decline in the number of COVID-19 deaths but it also made people isolate themselves, leading to a decline in the spread of the infection. 

Umar said that the government was able to reach 10.8 contact persons through one “index person” (infected individual). “We are at par with South Korea [with our contact tracing method],” he said, praising the effectiveness of the method. 

He said that the government had conducted 2,350 smart lockdowns across the country. “The next stage we are going towards are micro lockdowns,” he said, adding that the intensity of the targeting was shifting towards neighbourhoods and homes of infected persons. 

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