–Minister says govt to decide on extension of lockdown this week, trying to mitigate its effect
–Parliamentary body formed to monitor coronavirus situation all set to meet on Monday
ISLAMABAD: As the coronavirus cases crossed 3,000 on Sunday, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar said that although the lockdown has slowed the growth of cases, the virus may still test Pakistan’s healthcare system in the coming weeks.
Addressing a press conference in the federal capital, the minister thanked the public for cooperating with the government’s instructions of avoiding public gatherings to slow down the spread of coronavirus, but warned that these steps would not halt the virus. “Had the steps not been taken, the disease would have spread at a much faster rate,” he added.
He warned that the coming weeks can be difficult for Pakistan’s healthcare system because the rate at which the infection is spreading, the virus will soon test the country’s health facilities. “The difference between the facilities, hospitals and quarantine zones being set up by the government and the spread of the coronavirus will diminish in the coming weeks,” he added.
“Pakistan’s testing capacity was limited when the first cases were reported in the country but with each passing day, it was increasing,” Umar said, adding that Pakistan was taking special measures to protect the health professionals who were battling the coronavirus on the front lines.
He said that the lockdown measures were not only hurting the poor but the affluent as well, however the government was working to formulate a strategy based on which an affected person or area is identified and that individual or place is quarantined so that it does not affect others.
He also said that he could not predict whether the bans in place will increase or decrease after April 14. “Today, I cannot tell you whether the bans will increase or not from April 15,” he said, adding that those decisions will be taken this week.
He paid tribute to the doctors, nurses, armed forces personnel, NGOs and the people for coming to each other’s aid in these testing times. “God willing, we will make it out of this difficult time,” he added.
CASES ON THE RISE:
As of 8 pm on Sunday, Pakistan’s coronavirus cases stood at 3,118 with 45 deaths and 170 recoveries.
Swat’s Deputy Commissioner’s Office confirmed 25 cases and three deaths of coronavirus in the district.
Punjab confirmed 184 new coronavirus cases in the province taking the provincial total to 1,380, including 309 pilgrims, 443 people associated with Raiwind Ijtima, 28 prisoners and 600 citizens. Lahore has the highest number of cases at 260.
Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has confirmed 51 new cases of coronavirus in Sindh, taking the tally to 881. In a video message, the chief minister said that one more person has died from COVID-19 in the province. He added that 68 more people have recovered in the last 24 hours taking the total number of recoveries to 123.
The total number of cases in Balochistan increased to 189, said provincial government spokesperson Liaqat Shahwani. He stated that the patients were being transferred to a hospital. “So far, 32 patients in the province have recovered from the disease and have been discharged from the hospital,” he added.
PARLIAMENTARY BODY ON COVID TO MEET ON MONDAY:
A 25-member parliamentary committee constituted for monitoring and supervision of COVID-19 situation will meet under the chairmanship of National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser on Monday.
Finance adviser Abdul Hafeez Shaikh will give a briefing to the committee over economic and trade situation besides giving detailed information regarding the federal government’s economic plan. Commerce adviser Abdul Razak Dawood will apprise impact of coronavirus pandemic over trade activities across the country.
A comprehensive review will be presented over coronavirus situation by Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Zafar Mirza and National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Chairman Lieutenant General Mohammad Afzal regarding the measures adopted to contain the virus.
The members of the parliamentary committee will join the meeting through video conference.
STUDENTS STRANDED IN KYRGYZSTAN CALL FOR HELP:
Pakistani students stranded in Kyrgyzstan have demanded of the government to arrange special flights to bring them back home.
In a video message, Arbaz Khan, a student leader, said there are 5,000 students who are stuck in the Central Asian state as a result of the ban imposed by the Pakistan government on inbound international flights.
According to Khan, as a result of a lockdown, the students are almost out of essential food and healthcare items.