THE National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Sunday decided to expand its stricter coronavirus-related standard operation procedures (SOPs) to 27 cities citing the pressure on the healthcare system.
On August 2, the NCOC had revised its SOPs for 13 cities namely Rawalpindi, Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan in Punjab; Peshawar and Abbottabad in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; Karachi and Hyderabad in Sindh; Islamabad; Muzaffarabad and Mirpur in Azad Kashmir; and Gilgit and Skardu in Gilgit-Baltistan.
It has now extended the stricter SOPs to 14 more cities, including Khanewal, Mianwali, Sargodha, Khushab, Bahawalpur, Gujranwala and Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab and Swat, Haripur, Mansehra, Lower Dir, Swabi, Swat and Chitral in the KP.
It is a matter of satisfaction that the country’s healthcare system, despite its limitations, withstood the pressure caused during three waves of Covid-19 and is also delivering satisfactorily during the fourth wave.
However, it is worrying that the number of virus cases is increasing and the new Delta variant is spreading to every nook and corner of the country including far-flung rural areas, which were previously thought to be comparatively safer because of the accessibility factor.
The severity of the situation has forced the NCOC to impose stricter restrictions in more cities and towns at par with those of the general lockdown.
There are, of course, capacity issues at hospitals and health facilities besides the issue of non-availability of qualified staff in adequate numbers to take care of rush of patients at a time when a good number of health personnel are engaged in country-wide vaccination drive.
However, the challenge offers an opportunity to learn lessons and address deficiencies of our health system.
In the past, there was an acute shortage of ventilators in the public sector hospitals and the patients were frequently referred to private facilities where they were unable to afford the exorbitant charges.
Now, this facility is available to almost all those who need special care and similarly, more laboratories should be established and the existing ones upgraded to ensure that all types of diagnostic tests are available for all patients at affordable cost.