LAHORE- The Lahore High Court on Tuesday gave another two weeks to the three-member committee over measles deaths for submitting its report.

Justice Muhammad Khalid Mehmood Khan sought reply from the secretary of cabinet division and chairman of Pakistan Drug Regulatory Authority and also directed the attorney general of Pakistan to assist the court in the matter.

The court also sought a report on a TV programme wherein reasons of deaths caused by measles were mentioned and directed an additional advocate general to handover the programme CD to the committee head.

Earlier, Sheikh Zayed Hospital Principal Dr Zafar Iqbal, the committee head, sought 10 days more to prepare report as per court’s earlier orders. An additional advocate general also sought time to submit report by all DCOs of the province.

“The main cause of deaths was breakup of cold chain as the vaccine was not stored at required temperature and as such lack the real cure capabilities. The health department is intended to take action against its staff for leaking the info,” the court heard.

The judge remarked that the court would provide protection to employees who perform in public interest. The counsel contended it was matter of life and death but the department was not showing any interest.

Judicial Activism Panel chairman Muhammad Azhar Siddique moved the civil miscellaneous application in his already pending petition against government failure to control measles epidemic.

He had requested the court to form a judicial commission headed by a retired judge alongwith other independent experts who are impartial, unbiased and fair reputation in order to probe into the matter in depth as the issue was of immense sensitivity. The court will take up matter on July 10.

The country's richest and most developed province have so far lost more than 170 lives - all children. Health experts say ineffective vaccination programmes and poor monitoring of the disease have resulted in the contagious disease running rampant. "Initially people were unaware about this epidemic, so they tried to treat the disease at home and using local street doctors," doctor Iftikhar Mirza, a spokesman for Mayo hospital, told AFP.

"They were even unaware about the vaccination. So, when they came to us, the children were in a critical condition and many had already died."

Asad Abbas, a labourer, tried to treat the disease, spread by droplets from the nose or mouth of infected people, with traditional methods and sought proper medical treatment only just in time.

"The red spots appeared on my six-year-old grandson's body some days back. We took it lightly and got him treated from a homeopathic practitioner," he said.

"Then he started vomiting and his energy vanished. When we brought him here, he was about to die. But after treatment over here, he is okay now."

Doctor Muhammad Younas, an official from the Directorate General of Health in Punjab, said the province had seen 17,985 measles cases this year, with 158 deaths.

"This is the worst situation in five years and we can confidently say that the number of these cases is much higher than during the previous five years," he said.

Last year there were 310 measles deaths in Pakistan, according to the World Health Organization, described in January by a health ministry official as "a record high".

The WHO uses a more conservative count of cases and deaths, but even by its measure 2013 is on track to be far worse than 2012. Since the start of the year the WHO has recorded 12,951 measles cases and 290 deaths across Pakistan - compared to 14,984 cases and 310 deaths in the whole of last year.

The WHO says three consecutive years of severe flooding, which put Pakistan's health system under severe strain, have helped measles cases rocket from 4,321 in 2010 to the current alarming figure.