Prime Minister Imran Khan has urged the people to follow coronavirus standard operating procedures (SOPs), warning that the number of cases in the country are rising at an alarming rate. “This third wave of Covid-19 is more lethal than the previous ones and I advise everyone to take precautions [against Covid-19] particularly wearing face mask,” the Premier who himself infected with the novel coronavirus earlier this month and is in self-isolation said this in a recorded message on Sunday. However, the Prime Minister again ruled out the option of imposing a complete lockdown in the country, saying the government does not have enough resources to afford the economic cost of the business shutdown. He said hospitals in different parts of the country are nearing their capacity as those who returned from England have spread the new variant of coronavirus which is highly contagious. He urged the masses to avoid going places which are termed superspreaders of the virus like wedding ceremonies, restaurants and other enclosed spaces. The Prime Minister while disclosing the reason as to why he was infected with the virus admitted that he flouted the SOPs during the recently-held Senate elections. “Allah has been so kind to me and my wife [Bushra Bibi] but this virus can prove very dangerous if it enters into the human chest,” said the PM while warning the public about the deadly virus. The government has banned all kinds of indoor and outdoor gatherings with immediate effect, besides announcing a complete ban on wedding functions from April 5 in areas that have a three-day rolling average of an 8 percent positivity ratio, to contain the surging spread of Covid-19. This decision was taken in the meeting of National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) with Asad Umar in the chair on Sunday. The chief ministers of all four provinces attended the meeting via video link. The gatherings banned immediately include all social, cultural, political, sports and other events. There will be a complete ban on marriage ceremonies, including indoor and outdoor from 5th of next month; however, provinces will be at liberty to implement restrictions in an early time frame as per the situation on ground. The NCOC will provide updated hotspot maps to provinces for enforcement of expanded lockdowns with effect from Monday (today). It also directed provinces to ensure vaccination targets given by the NCOC are being met in a timely manner. “Correct and timely data ingestion in NIMS be ensured by all provinces,” it added. Various options for reduction of inter-provincial transport were considered during the meeting and it was decided that a final decision will be taken based on the input from provinces and analysis of data regarding the number of inter- provincial commuters via air, rail and road. Posting an update on Twitter regarding the meeting, Asad Umar said, “Held NCOC meeting today with provincial chief secretaries & reviewed the situation. Based on the continuing increase in disease spread & fast pace at which hospital fill up is taking place, particularly critical Covid patients, decided to further tighten restrictions.” He added that chief secretaries had been advised to ensure strict compliance of the SOPs, urging people to “cooperate with the administration as they are enforcing these SOPs for safeguarding us.” Pakistan’s Covid-19 cases reached a nine-month high the past week with over 4,500 cases being reported consecutively. Later addressing a press conference on Sunday, Asad Umar called upon the political, social and religious leaders and media to join hands to contain the spread of the third wave of Covid-19 pandemic. He said, “It is time to show as a nation that we would limit the spread of the disease from reaching the level of damaging livelihood.” He further said, “We will have to combat the pandemic once again by taking timely steps to save the employments of people and avoid further restrictions.” The minister pointed out that the major reason behind the rising trend of coronavirus cases in the country is the British variants of the pandemic that has the ability to spread more rapidly and it is also more fatal. He asked people to take care of themselves and their families as well as friends by adopting preventive measures. Warning that callousness towards compliance with coronavirus SOPs can lead us to endangering lives, Umar urged people to take care of themselves and their families and friends by adopting preventive measures. The third wave of the coronavirus continues to ring alarm bells for Pakistan as 4,767 new infections were reported across the country during the last twenty-four hours, said the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Sunday. The country has reported more than 4,000 cases a day during the last three days. Fifty-seven more people died of Covid-19, surging the overall death toll to 14,215. The total count of active cases is 44,447. Pakistan tested 45,656 people in total for the infection on Saturday and with 4,767 new cases, the positivity ratio in the country has climbed to 10.44 percent. Since the detection of the first Covid-19 case in the country, overall 10,066,726 tests have been conducted so far. With 201 new critical cases during the past 24 hours, the overall number of critical patients across the country currently stands at 2,842. Some 2,647 people recovered from the deadly disease during the last 24 hours, while so far 595,929 people have regained health after suffering from Covid-19. Punjab reported 2,823 new cases of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, according to the provincial health department. “In a day, 39 more patients of the disease have died of the coronavirus in the province,” Punjab’s Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department stated. “After a period of 10 months, Lahore has reported 1,725 cases of the virus in a single day again,” according to the health department. A new ICU established at the Services Hospital of Lahore for coronavirus patients has been filled rapidly. “16 new ventilators have been provided to the new ICU ward,” the hospital’s medical superintendent said. The number of overall ventilators has increased to 32 with new additions, hospital officials said. “The number of beds allocated for coronavirus patients has been enhanced to 117 from 73,” MS Dr Muhammad Zahid said. The federal capital reported 538 fresh Covid-19 cases during the past 24 hours. According to the District Health Officer (DHO), Dr Zaeem Zia, the positivity rate of Covid-19 cases was recorded at 8.32 per cent. The DHO said in statement 538 coronavirus cases were reported in 24 hours, whereas, the number of deaths reached up to 559 including two deaths in the past 24 hours. A total of 55,594 cases were recorded in the federal capital so far and 56 ventilators are currently occupied by patients. Meanwhile, Sindh reported four deaths due to the coronavirus. The province’s current death toll is 4,491. However, the province recorded about 282 new cases, taking the tally for confirmed cases to 264,888. Moreover, as many as 98 people recovered from the virus on Saturday. A total of 255,769 people have recovered from the deadly infection in Sindh. According to the NCOC, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reported nine deaths and the provincial death toll has reached 2,283. Balochistan reported one more death and the provincial death toll has reached 206. Two more patients died in AJK, climbing up the death toll to 344. However, no death was reported in Gilgit-Baltistan and the death toll there stands at 103. There is no patient on ventilator in AJK, GB and Balochistan.