Islamabad: Pakistan said on Saturday that it will take a decision on whether to extend the ongoing nationwide lockdown or ease restrictions on Monday, as the number of coronavirus patients rose to 4,970.
Speaking at a press conference here, Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar said that Prime Minister Imran Khan will take a decision after his meeting with the National Coordination Committee on COVID-19, comprising senior officials of all provinces and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
"We will make a national decision on the lockdown," said Umar. He also said that the country would suffer about Rs1,400-1,500 billion shortfall in revenues due to the nationwide shutdown. Prime Minister's Advisor on Health Dr Zafar Mirza said that Pakistan had lower number of cases than projected but people should not relax and follow the restrictions. It will be a mistake to relax, he said.
He warned that the number of cases and deaths will sharply increase if restrictions were removed and people didn't follow social distancing. The official data posted by the Ministry of National Health services on its website showed that the worst-hit Punjab province reported 2,414 COVID-19 cases, Sindh 1,318, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa 656, Balochistan 220, Gilgit-Baltistan 215, Islamabad 113 and PoK 34.
It also reported that 762 patients have recovered so far. Seventy-one patients have died including five in the last 24 hours. Authorities have so far conducted 57,836 tests, including 2,457 in the last one day.
Umar said that the government was planning to increase the daily number of tests to 25,000 by the end of this month. The official data showed that 52 per cent patents were those who had travelled abroad while 48 per cent were local transmissions. At least 61 doctors and paramedics at a major healthcare centre in PoK's Muzaffarabad were placed in quarantine after a 65-year-old asymptomatic patient being treated there for some other chronic ailments tested positive.
"I can confirm you that 29 physicians and 32 other staffers are being quarantined immediately," a senior official was quoted as saying by Dawn. Meanwhile, China is providing more medical supplies to Pakistan to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
A special plane of Pakistan International Airline (PIA) will arrive from China later Saturday with more medical supplies. It is the second plane to arrive in two days, said Naghmana Hashmi, Pakistan's Ambassador to China. "PIA special plane with 50 donated ventilators, equip & PPEs (personal protective equipment) left Chengdu for Islamabad today. One plane of relief goods from Beijing went yesterday," she tweeted.
Earlier on March 27, the Khunjerab pass between Pakistan and China was opened for a day to receive Chinese medical supplies. Pakistan and China describe their relations as all-weather strategic cooperative partnership and have firmly supported each other on issues concerning each other's core interests.
So far Lahore with 21 per cent share of total infections is on the top as the most infected city in Pakistan, followed by Karachi with 18 per cent infections. But a Sindh health official expressed concern on Friday that Karachi was vulnerable due to its dense population and increase in the rare of local transmission. Three districts out of six of the metropolis have over 100 cases each, with the East District having 185 positive cases, Central District 144 and the South District 135 cases.
Pakistan Medical Association's Karachi chapter general secretary, Dr Abdul Ghafoor Shoro, said residents in poor localities are roaming, posing a serious threat to them and others.
I believe there would be far more cases in other areas, such as Keamari, Lyari, Korangi and Orangi Town, he said. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said that over 82 per cent of new coronavirus cases in the province were reported from Karachi. He also said 20 per cent of COVID-19 tests conducted in the past 24 hours came out positive in Sindh. "This is greater than the world average at the moment," Shah said.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday chaired a meeting with officials to discuss ways to bring back about 40,000 Pakistanis stranded in various countries. A special Pakistan International Airlines brought back 200 Pakistanis from Malaysia and Singapore to Islamabad. The flight also repatriated 120 Malaysian and Singaporean nationals from Pakistan.
The National Command and Operation Centre on COVID-19 on Friday directed all provincial governments to reopen their airports to avoid chaos in the federal capital. Since the provincial governments closed their airports in the wake of the pandemic, all flights bringing Pakistanis from abroad were landing at Islamabad international Airport, Dawn reported.
The airports in the provinces will reopen by April 13, Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Hamza Shafqaat said, adding that there was no flight arriving in the capital on April 10 and 12. Meanwhile, the government re-imposed a ban on the export of all anti-malaria drugs on Friday, four days after withdrawing the ban on the export of these drugs.
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The ban that has been imposed with immediate effect will remain in place until further decision, according to the commerce ministry.
The demand for export of anti-malaria drugs especially hydroxychloroquine gained importance after US President Donald Trump claimed that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved the use of "very powerful drug Chloroquine to treat coronavirus patients.