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Pak corona death toll now stands at 9

Top Story

March 27, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Death toll from the novel coronavirus rose to nine in the country after the Punjab reported another fatality on Thursday, with the number of infected individuals standing at 1,179.

According to the data uploaded on the Ministry of Health’s live dashboard, the situation remains bleakest in Sindh which has reported 421 cases, followed by the Punjab (394), Balochistan (131), Gilgit-Baltistan (84), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (123), Islamabad (25), and AJK (1).

Earlier, Sindh had reported eight new cases, of which seven were from Karachi and one from Hyderabad, taking the provincial aggregate to 421.

Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) reported one new case, increasing the region's total to two, while Gilgit-Baltistan reported seven new cases, taking the toll to 91.

Earlier, the national dashboard had reported five new cases in Islamabad, taking the tally to 25.

Meanwhile, Chairman National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Lt. Gen. Muhammad Afzal addressed a joint press conference in Islamabad convened as a follow-up to the National Coordination Committee meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan here on Thursday.

He was flanked by Federal Minister for Planning and Special Initiative Asad Umar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza, Minister for Religious Affairs Noor-ul-Haq Qadri, and Minister for Information Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan.

According to Lt Gen Afzal when the National Security Committee (NSC) convened its first meeting on the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) on March 13, Pakistan had a total of 700 ICU beds but today hospitals at the federal and provincial levels collectively have 19,670 beds. The capacity of quarantine facilities has also been reinforced — from 500 beds to 165,000.

Additionally, 1,795 three- and four-star hotels with 42,000 rooms have been booked to accommodate confirmed patients, and another six five-star hotels have been identified for use as the fourth line of defence, should there be an exponential increase in numbers.

Referring to the PM’s instruction to prioritize the safety of frontline health workers, Lt. Gen. Afzal assured that protective boxes containing a gown, goggles, shield, shield hanger, 2 N95 masks, 30 surgical masks, and a hand wash were being readied for 30,000 medical professionals working in the ICUs across the country.

“By April 5, they will have received their kits,” he stated.

Lt. Gen. Afzal said Pakistan will receive a consignment of 1,000 imported ventilators by April 15.

“We will have procured 2,000 ventilators by April 25 and between 8,000 and 10,000 by May,” he announced.

He said 450 of the 2,200 ventilators that were available in the public sector hospitals of Pakistan were out of order, but their majority had been repaired by an affiliate organization of the Pakistan Defense Forces.

“Except for 61 ventilators in Punjab, all have been repaired,” he said.

Having received 500,000 N95 masks from a private Chinese company on March 25, Pakistan is now expecting a consignment of 50,000 testing kits in Karachi today (Friday), and 15,000 overall compositions from Singapore in three days. “We will also receive 15 tonnes of equipment including 20 ventilators from Wuhan tomorrow,” the NDMA chief said.

He said orders had also been placed for procurement of kits for performance of 10 lakh tests. Another 15 tonnes of equipment along with an 8-member team of doctors from Urumqi is expected on Saturday. This team will tour all provinces of Pakistan under the aegis of the National Institute of Health (NIH), and will advise Pakistan on ways to overcome the COVID-19 crisis.

General Afzal said the NDMA was also in touch with the Xinjiang government, which will send some protective equipment through the Khunjerab border; the items will help meet the needs of Gilgit-Baltistan for the next couple of weeks.

Pakistan will also receive from China a huge walk-through testing machine which will carry out mass screening of people in places where individual tests may not be possible.

“We will try to install the machine in a way that it can be shifted from one city to another, depending on need,” he added.

The NDMA chief also shared that areas reporting maximum cases were being disinfected.

As many as 100 pickups with 4 to 6 guns each will wash entire areas with chemicals, starting from Bhara Kahu and moving on to Chak Shahzad, Mardan, Deena, Sirae-e-Alamgir, and so on.

Dr. Zafar said out of 6,589 people restricted to quarantine facilities (including pilgrims from Iran), the results of 2,500 have been finalized. Of these, 588 (24%) have tested positive for COVID-19, while 1,912 (76%) are negative.

Dr. Zafar also announced the inclusion of infectious disease specialist Dr. Faisal Sultan in the federal health team for Covid-19.

Earlier, Asad Umar informed the media that the NCC meeting had decided to extend closure of educational institutions across Pakistan till May 30.

He said, the prime minister will, in a couple of days, announce a volunteers programme to strengthen the COVID-19 response, and a mechanism for collection of donations from philanthropists at home and abroad.

He said the NSC discussed the overall strategy for implementation of the economic package announced by the PM.

He shared that the PM will chair another NSC meeting on (Friday) to decide how to overcome the problems being faced by KP and Balochistan vis-à-vis interruption of food and oil supplies due to suspension of transportation facilities.

The meeting will also review the challenges confronting industries that were given exemptions such as pharmaceuticals and food suppliers, etc.

Asad Umar assured that there was no shortage of flour anywhere in the country, and that the government was harmonizing efforts to ensure that prices remain stable.

He repeated that a strict action would be taken against hoarders. Responding to a query, he said, restrictions on movement were being progressively increased, and there had been no decision yet of a complete lockdown.

Addressing the briefing, Noor-ul-Haq Qadri announced that while mosques will not be closed down, Imams and Khateebs will shorten the stretch of the Friday sermons. He said, while the devout will continue to go for regular prayers, men over 50 and children will be requested to perform prayers at home and also in the form of Jamaat with their families.

He quoted examples from other Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, among other, which have banned congregational assemblies after the Al-Azhar University issued a decree (fatwa) to this effect.

He said these steps were expedient to minimize the threat of coronavirus.

Qadri thanked senior representatives of all schools of thought for playing a positive role during this time of crisis.

He said holidays had been announced in Madaris and the Wafaq-ul-Madaris exams as well as the Dastar-e-Fazeelat and other annual convocations had also been postponed.

Qadri was all praise for Muslim scholars and ulema who expressed confidence in decisions taken by the government in the larger interest of humanity to fight the COVID-19 menace.

In a related development, Chief Justice Islamabad High Court (IHC) Justice Athar Minallah Thursday visited the district courts to review safety measures for judges and lawyers against the coronavirus.

During the visit, Justice Minallah emphasised social distancing on the court premises and ordered strict compliance of the safety protocols.

He said the sessions’ judge had constituted a team which was visiting the Adiala Jail along with the administration to monitor the steps taken there.

He said it was government's responsibility to look into the overcrowding of jails, which was already causing various problems.

He ordered strict compliance of government’s standard operating procedures (SOPs) in the courts.