–Gen Afzal says country to need 2,000 more ventilators in June if Covid-19 cases surge
ISLAMABAD: National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Chairman Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal has warned of two more looming disasters –flooding and locusts– in addition to coronavirus outbreak, in the upcoming month.
Addressing a press conference, Gen Afzal said the swarm of locusts will likely enter the country in June whereas due to excessive snowfall, rivers can also face flooding.
Referring to the snowfall in the north during the past winter, he said some areas received 29-33 per cent more snowfall this year and it was possible that the country would face flooding. However, a plan is under-consideration which will be shared with the public and the relevant authorities by June 10, he added.
Speaking about the locust attack, Gen Afzal said it should not be politicised. “I appeal to all the leaderships of religious, political and social groups to join hands and concentrate to get rid of them instead of indulging in point-scoring,” he added, “The current locust attack is not in the category of swarms but they are locally bred and indigenous and are termed as groups.”
He said that due to extensive cold and snowfall in Balochistan in January and February last year, the locust did not move back to Iran and Africa and laid their eggs in the province.
“The current groups of locusts active in southern Punjab are local, but other parts of the country are also facing locusts,” he highlighted.
According to the NDMA chief, locusts could enter Pakistan from Iran and Muscat in the first and second week of June and in order to counter the threat, aircraft with sufficient spray equipment and pesticides were being deployed in Dera Ghazi Khan, Dera Ismail Khan and along the Iranian border to nip them in the bud.
Arrangements have also been made to undertake anti-locust spray in deserts of Thar and Cholistan, he claimed.
Speaking more about operations, he said for the past two weeks 1,500 NDMA teams along with the Provincial Disaster Management Authorities (PDMA) of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan, were active in the fight against the locusts.
Currently massive operations continue in Multan, DG Khan, Bahawalpur, some areas of Faisalabad, Okara, Bhakkar, Layyah, where teams were dealing with the threat to crops, he added.
He said enough stock of pesticides was also available to check the locust attack in the country and added that China also provided 1,00,000 liters of Malathion and 75,000 liters Lambda, while Japan would provide 50,000 liters Lambda.
NDMA had also ordered to procure 1,00,000 liters each of these pesticides to undertake spray against locust, he added. He said provinces were provided the pesticides as per their demand.
Gen Afzal said NDMA also arranged nine planes for aerial spray in different parts of the country, including Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Spray kits were also imported to be fixed on army helicopters for carrying aerial spray against locust, he added.
The chairman said six more aircraft were also being added to the air-fleet on the directives of the government. The army has placed services of 5000 personnel on NDMA disposal to counter locust attack, he added.
NEED OF VENTILATORS:
He also spoke of the Covid-19 and the subsequent need for ventilators in the country. He said there were about 4,200 ventilators available in public and private sector hospitals of the country and the government has further ordered 1,310 ventilators more.
He said that trained staff was required to operate the ventilators and agreements regarding the training of staff, its installation and 1-3 years maintenance were also ensured with the concerned companies. He said the United States (US) has also offered to donate 200 ventilators to Pakistan and half of them would reach here shortly.
Out of 100 ventilators, 30 each would be provided to Peshawar and Karachi, 15 to Balochistan, 10 to Faisalabad, and 15 to Lahore.
He said currently only 128 patients were on ventilators. Occupancy of ventilators in all cities remained below 50 per cent so far, he said.
He said it was expected that 2,000 more ventilators would be required by June if the situation would get worse for which a contingency plan had already been chalked out.
The NDMA chairman said the Authority had 183 intensive care unit ventilators in its warehouses as well as oxygen, CPAP, and BiPAP ventilators.
While refuting news circulated on social media about the shortage of ICU beds, Gen Afzal said there were 10,944 ICU beds available in 365 public sector hospitals across the country and only 2,211 ICUs beds were in use which was 20 per cent below the available capacity, while 679 ICU beds were also available in 52 private hospitals, he said.
Similarly, as many as 72,900 beds were available in the public sector while around 6000 beds in private sector hospitals, he added.
He said any corona patient, who was denied a bed in a hospital from any part of the country could register a complaint at telephone number 111-157-157. The chairman said Pakistan has achieved self-sufficiency in manufacturing medical equipment to treat Covid-19 patients.
However, he appealed the masses to strictly adhere to laid down Standard Operating Procedure (SOPs) announced by the Ministry of Health to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and to protect themselves and others.