–Premier rules out complete lockdown, urges all Pakistanis to donate to Corona Relief Fund
–SAPM says 27pc cases of local transmission in different provinces
LAHORE/ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday urged the nation to stand united in its battle against the coronavirus as Pakistan’s death toll from COVID-19 increased to 24 after more patients succumbed to the deadly disease.
Pakistan’s coronavirus cases currently stand at 1,775 after the confirmation of new cases in Sindh, Punjab, Islamabad, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).
On the other hand, hours after four patients recovered from the disease, 23 patients who were being kept in the Sindh government’s isolation facility in Sukkur also tested negative twice, taking the total number of recoveries to 53.
In his address to the nation, the prime minister said that every country is fighting the pandemic according to its capacity and the only country to succeed in its battle against the virus is China.
“They put 20 million people under lockdown to overcome this highly-contagious disease, and if we had a similar economic situation, I would have shut down the whole country to protect the people from the virus,” he said.
However, he added, Pakistan is in a very vulnerable position because about 25 per cent of its population lives under the poverty line and 20 per cent is on the borderline. “A lockdown will fail if people become unemployed and have nothing to eat,” he said.
The prime minister said that resources were not merely enough to win the war against the pandemic. “India decided to impose a countrywide lockdown. Today, their prime minister issued an apology to the nation for ordering a lockdown without proper planning,” he added.
He compared the relief package of the United States with Pakistan, saying that there was no comparison between the two. “I announced a relief package of $8 billion and the US announced a relief package of $2 trillion,” he said.
“This disease does not differentiate between the poor and the rich,” he said, citing the example of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson who contracted the infection as well.
PM Imran said that Pakistan must fight this war with wisdom and sagacity. “Faith is our biggest strength, for it has turned us into one of the most charitable nations in the world and our youth is our second biggest strength because they are the ones who will define the nation’s future,” he added.
He also said that a cell is working in the PM Office round the clock to monitor the situation closely and within a week, the situation will become clearer.
The premier announced the establishment of Corona Relief Tiger Force that will work in collaboration with the civil administration and army to contain the spread of the virus. “Our volunteers will help deliver food to areas under lockdown, besides disseminating awareness to the public. Young doctors, nurses, drivers and people belonging to any profession could choose to become part of the force,” he added.
He said that the virus is more dangerous for the elderly people and persons with underlying health conditions, therefore, it should not become a social stigma.
PM Imran also announced the Corona Relief Fund at the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP), where charitable contributions can be made.
He said that Pakistan’s relief package is around $8 billion which can be further enhanced depending on the public’s needs. “It has been decided that State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) will give loans to industries on low markup so that employees are not laid off by their respective companies,” he added.
The prime minister said that the Facebook page of Ehsaas Programme will give details about the areas where people are in most need, so that people can make decisions to give charity based on transparent information.
He also warned that strict action will be taken against the hoarders and profiteers, and they will be given an exemplary punishment, besides holding them responsible for the misery of people.
The government announced that contributions will also be tax free and incentives will be given to tax filers. The account number of the fund is 4162 786 786.a
In KP, three family members of a woman who tested positive for the coronavirus also tested positive for COVID-19. This includes two of her daughters and a son. Some other members of her family, however, tested negative for the virus.
Eight more cases were reported in Islamabad whereas 12 cases were reported in GB. With the new cases, Islamabad’s tally has risen to 51 while GB now has a total of 152 cases. Moreover, four new cases were reported in AJK.
In Sindh, six new COVID-19 cases were reported in Karachi, raising the province’s tally to 566. Meeran Yousuf, media coordinator for the Sindh health and population minister, said that all the cases were locally transmitted.
Punjab reported another 45 COVID-19 cases, according to provincial health department spokesperson Qaiser Asif, taking the total tally to 651.
As Punjab witnesses an explosive growth in the number of cases, the provincial health minister told the media that the “curve is flattening in Lahore”. Dr Yasmin Rashid said that about 60 patients are currently under treatment at the Mayo Hospital.
“Private labs are also testing for the virus and I am pleased to announce that we have successfully contained the unconfined spread in Lahore through lockdown and other precautionary measures,” she added.
27PC CASES DUE TO LOCAL TRANSMISSION:
Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza said that 420 cases, which was over 27 per cent of the total confirmed cases, were the result of local transmission of virus.
The PM’s aide said, “Over 120 cases have been reported during the last 24 hours. But a good thing is that as many as 28 victims have been fully recovered. We have reduced the pace of cases due to effective steps of social distancing but all those successes can be ruined if people ignore social distancing.”
“As many as 857 cases were reported in the persons who had travelled to Iran and 191 persons, found positive for Covid-19 tests, had travelled to different countries other than Iran,” he added.
Dr Mirza told the media that the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has formed a programme in which they are inviting proposals on research and innovation on COVID-19 prevention, treatment and on the affects that emerge from it.
“If you have any such idea, you can send your proposal to HEC,” he said.
National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Chairman Lieutenant General Muhammad Afzal said that the most important priority is the frontline teams of doctors, nurses and medical teams.
He said that medical staff in AJK and GB have been provided with enough supplies for five weeks in order to deal with the pandemic.
The NDMA has opened a “one window” for hospitals in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), although they have been provided with supplies, he said.
INT’L FLIGHTS TO REMAIN SUSPENDED:
Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on National Security Division and Strategic Policy Planning Moeed Yousuf said that reports that flights would resume at all airports from April 5 were untrue.
He said that when flights do resume, they will resume slowly. He added that there were no Pakistani transit passengers at any airport.