Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday decided to call in army troops in cities to ensure strict implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) in view of the fast deteriorating situation of Covid-19 in the country. In a televised address after chairing the meeting of the National Coordination Committee on Covid-19, Prime Minister Imran Khan warned that if the surge in Covid-19 cases continues, the government will be compelled to impose lockdown in big cities. “If the required precautions are not taken, we will have to go for a lockdown… the economy, business and industry, all will suffer and the segment most affected would be our poor people,” the prime minister said, and urged the masses to adopt preventive measures against Covid-19 so that the situation remains under control and the lockdown can be avoided. He regretted that the people are not observing the SOPs as they did during the first wave. “If masses act the same way as last year, we can address the situation in a better way,” he said, and added that Pakistan was the only country that did not shut down its mosques during the last Ramazan. However, he pointed out, this time, the majority of people are not careful and are not observing the SoPs. He said no doubt there is the issue of pandemic fatigue, however, the people need to enforce strict implementation to contain the virus. “Even the vaccination started at the moment will still take up to one year to get it to contain,” he said, adding that in the meantime, adhering to SOPs and wearing face masks is the best prevention. Minister for Planning Asad Umar in his remarks said the NCC meeting agreed on shutting down all non-essential businesses by 6 pm, while the offices would operate till 2 pm. He said this would allow the people to go for necessary shopping. He particularly urged the women to do their Eid shopping earlier and not to wait for the last week ahead of Eid. He said a new policy is in the offing for international travelers and their quarantine and vaccination procedures and said it would be announced in the next one or two days. He said there would be strict enforcement of 50 per cent work-from-home policy and a complete ban on outdoor dining till Eid. He said there was also pressure on the country’s oxygen supply and the plants are operating at 90 per cent of their capacity. He said of this, around 80 per cent is being used for the Covid-19 patients only. He said the meeting also deliberated on how to improve the oxygen supply and if needed, necessary steps would be taken to import it. Dr Faisal, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health said the daily number of critical patients is over 4,000 a day, which is far higher than the previous two times. He said this coupled with the 10 per cent positivity rate reflects that the pandemic is spreading. In some cities, he said the positivity rate is 20 per cent or more, putting serious strain on the health system. The national tally of total active Covid-19 cases was recorded at 84,976 as 5,870 more people test positive for the deadly virus. One hundred and forty-four corona patients died on Friday, 133 of whom were under treatment in hospitals and 11 in their respective quarantines or homes, according to the latest update issued by the NCOC. Most of the deaths occurred in Punjab, followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Out of the total 144 deaths, 57 were under treatment on ventilators. The maximum ventilators are occupied in four major areas including Multan 85 percent, Mardan 65 percent, Gujranwala 88 percent and Lahore 82 percent. The maximum oxygen beds are occupied in four major areas of Nowshera 71 percent, Gujranwala 85 percent, Peshawar 76 percent and Mardan 70 percent. Around 562 ventilators are occupied elsewhere in the country while no Covid-affected person is on ventilator in Gilgit Baltistan (GB) and Balochistan. Some 53,818 tests were conducted across country on Thursday, including 12,659 in Sindh, 26,091 in Punjab, 7,729 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), 4,713 in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), 1,135 in Balochistan, 391 in GB, and 1,100 in AJK. Around 682,290 people have recovered from the disease so far across Pakistan, making it a significant count with over 90 percent recovery ratio of the affected patients.