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ISLAMABAD: With two more causalities – one each in Rahim Yar Khan and Peshawar, the death toll from dreaded coronavirus reached 13 in the country on Saturday.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country rose to 1,504 after more people tested positive in Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Islamabad Capital Territory and Balochistan. The province-wise break-up of the total number of cases as of 11:01pm, March 28, is as follows:- Total confirmed cases: 1,504; Sindh: 469; Punjab: 557; Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 188; Balochistan: 138; Islamabad Capital Territory: 39; Gilgit-Baltistan: 111; AJK: 2 Total number of deaths from coronavirus 13; Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa: 4; Sindh: 1; Balochistan: 1; Gilgit-Baltistan: 1; and Punjab: 6.
According to hospitals and official sources, around 12,000 suspected patients are under observation across the country. According to sources, doctors, nurses and paramedics are also among the infected people. Also, Pak Army has assumed duties in aid of the civil administration.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Zafar Mirza said on Saturday that so far 25 people had recovered in the country from the disease. Accompanied by SAPM on National Security Moeed Yusuf and National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Chairman Lt-Gen Mohammad Afzal, he was providing the latest figures related to the pandemic to the media. Dr Mirza said that 7,180 are in quarantine facilities so far across the country.
SAPM Dr Moeed Yusuf said until April 4, the international airspace would remain closed. Beginning March 29, a ban on all outgoing flights would become effective till April 4. “The eastern and western borders will also remain closed for two weeks,” he added. However, if any request or demand is received about any stranded people anywhere, those would be considered on case-to-case basis. He said there was a ban on domestic flights also.
Lt-Gen Afzal said that the National Institute of Health had informed the authority that there was a severe shortage of lab technicians. To bridge the gap, the NDMA would publish an advertisement in newspapers on Monday, inviting applications from molecular biologists. Selected candidates would be inducted in grade-14, and they would be given contractual employment for four to six months. With one more death, the total number of casualties from coronavirus reached six in Punjab on Saturday.
As per Corona Monitoring Room at Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department, a total of 282 corona patients are pilgrims, who recently returned from Iran, and they are under treatment at quarantine facilities: 207 in Dera Ghazi Khan and 75 in Multan. As many as 119 patients are under treatment in Lahore, 51 in Gujrat, 21 each in Jhelum and Raiwind, 19 in Rawalpindi, 10 in Gujranwala, nine in Faisalabad, five in DG Khan, four in Mandi Bahauddin, three in Multan, two each in Mianwali, Nankana Sahib, Vehari and Sargodha and one each in Rahim Yar Khan, Narowal, Attock, Khushab and Bahawalnagar.
Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid, in a twitter message on Saturday, said that two more labs had been upgraded to "Bio Safety Level 3" for COVID-19 tests – one in Jinnah Hospital and the other in Pakistan Kidney and Liver Institute (PKLI) in Lahore. She said the government was working on upgrading eight more labs at divisional headquarters, to make them operational in next few days.
The Punjab government, on the recommendation of Corona Experts Advisory Group (CEAG) on Saturday, directed all doctors and nurses working in dedicated Corona Hospitals / Isolation Wards / HDUs / ICUs for management of COVID-19 patients would perform duties on 6-hourly shifts. After one week of duty, they would be granted two weeks off from duty, either at home or in the hospital facility. “This shall be implemented with an immediate effect,” says a notification issued by Punjab Specialized Healthcare and Medical Education (SHC&ME) Department on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar constituted a committee, which would submit its report immediately after devising a package for daily-wagers and labours. Chairing a meeting, he decided that relief would be provided to through Easy Paisa arrangement. The meeting decided that district level committees would be formed under the supervision of deputy commissioners while public representatives and people from various walks of life would be its members. The CM announced a special package for the government employees who embraced martyrdom due to coronavirus. He said supply of ration to the families of coronavirus patients should continue in the areas of lockdown and semi-lockdown. Financial assistance would be provided to the needy and deserving people through Prime Minister's Relief Package, Benazir Income Support Programme and Bait-ul-Maal.
Punjab Finance Minister Hashim Jawan Bakht said on Saturday the government had given Rs18 billion immediate tax relief for industry, Rs10 billion for social protection, Rs11.5 billion to the Health Department and the PDMA, Rs100 billion to public works projects in Annual Development Programme, one extra salary to the Health Department employees, Shuhada package and 10,000 people to be hired on an immediate basis. The Punjab government announced a massive Economic Stabilization and Bailout Package to support businesses and citizens being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Punjab’s COVID-19 package has taken into account the impact of COVID-19 lockdown on businesses, citizens and healthcare workers.
The economic package will help the health sector and PDMA cope with the crisis with an immediate funding of Rs11.5 billion and provide social welfare coverage of Rs10 billion to more than 25 lakh families with a monthly stipend of Rs4,000. “We have facilitated businesses by an immediate tax relief of Rs18 billion and dedicated Rs100 billion for public works projects in the Annual Development Programme to generate employment,” he added.
Meanwhile, Sheikh Zayed Medical College Hospital (SZMCH) official sources said a woman patient of coronavirus died at the hospital early Saturday morning. Reports said Shamim Bibi (65) of Ali Block Abbasia Town had returned from Saudi Arabia after performing Umrah few days ago. She was shifted to SZMCH three days back when her health deteriorated. She was kept in an isolation ward. Her pathological reports were not finalised till Saturday morning, but later SZMCH sources confirmed that she died due to coronavirus. She was buried at the graveyard of Chak 111 East by the employees of Rescue-1122, Health Department and police under all protective arrangements. SZMCH Medical Superintendent Dr Ghulam Rabbani said Shamim Bibi was a 68 years old patient of diabetes, asthma and blood pressure when she was brought to the hospital.
The victims of coronavirus in Faisalabad include: Kamran and Muhammad Anwar and three of their family members, a woman recently returning from Saudi Arabia after performing Umrah and four others. The victims will be kept in Isolation Ward of the Allied and other local hospitals and their re-test would be conducted after passage of 14 days. The result of 26 pilgrims returning from Iran had been found negative.
Also, the first coronavirus case was confirmed in Khanewal district on Saturday. Reportedly, 40-year-old Imran Hussain of Chak 14/8R had returned from Spain 10 days ago. He was admitted to the DHQ Hospital Khanewal on March 26. His tests were conducted and blood samples were sent to the Nishtar Hospital Multan. It was finally established that the patient was a corona patient. He was shifted to the isolation ward of the hospital. The district administration has lockdown all the areas of Chak 14/8R and shifted 15 suspected members of his family and friends to the quarantine established at a government school at Khanewal. Five medical teams had been deployed for blood screening of all the residents of the area.
The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa reported eight more confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, raising total count of positive cases in the province to 188.
Also, with the latest death of 60-year old woman in cardiology department of Hayatabad Medical Complex (HMC) in Peshawar, the deaths caused by the fast-spreading coronavirus reached four in KP. The elderly woman had returned from Saudi Arabia on March 15, where she had gone to perform Umrah along with other family members. She belonged to Talash area of Lower Dir district. And the doctors took her swab and sent to the Khyber Medical University (KMU) for investigation, while her attendants took the body to their native Talash area for burial. The laboratory report declared the patient as confirmed positive case of coronavirus.
Also, the total number of positive patients was raised to 188. Ajmal Wazir said results of 345 suspected patients were still awaited, though he didn't mention the reasons of the delay as the swab of these patients had been sent to KMU laboratory two and three days ago. He said the relief package approved by the cabinet would be distributed among 19 lakh deserving families in the province, Rs3,000 would be given under the Ehsaas Programme and Rs2,000 by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government. The cabinet has also approved a tax exemption of Rs5 billion to the business community, Rs8 billion to health for purchasing necessary medical equipment and Rs6 billion for Relief department.
He said that the number of corona test kits had been increased to 500 at Khyber Medical University, and this facility would be extended to the entire province. On the other hand, Mardan with 79 positive cases of coronavirus was on top in KP in terms of Covid-19 patients. It was followed by Dera Ismail Khan with 55 positive cases, though all of those reported from DI Khan didn't belong to the same district. They actually had returned from Iran via Taftan and were quarantined in DI Khan upon their return. Majority of those quarantined in DI Khan were happy with the arrangements provided to them by the district administration of DI Khan. Other districts also reported positive cases, including Buner, 5, Charsadda, 2, Upper Dir, 2, Karak, 1, Malakand, 1, Mansehra, 5, Nowshera, 3, Orakzai, 1, Peshawar, 18, Shangla, 1, South. The KP spokesperson Ajmal Wazir Khan said on Saturday the provincial government had increased its coronavirus testing capabilities to ensure 500 persons can be tested for the virus each day.
At least 29 more people including some doctors tested positive for COVID-19 in Karachi and Hyderabad on Saturday acquired through community transmission, health authorities in Karachi confirmed. With this addition the total number of Coronavirus cases has jumped to 469 across province.
Keeping in the view the gravity of the situation and prevailing scenario of COVID-19 spread in the province, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah directed health authorities to establish 14 Critical Care Units (CCUs) all over Sindh, including one in Karachi, which must be equipped with ventilators, cardiac monitors, pulse oximeters, suction machines, defibrillators and compressors. The chief minister issued the directives during the 31st meeting of Taskforce on Coronavirus here at the Chief Minister's House. The meeting was attended by Minister health Dr Azra Fazal Pechuuho, Minister LG Nasir Shah, Advisor Law Murtaza Wahab, Chief Secretary Mumtaz Shah, IG Home Mushtaq Maher, ACS Home Usman Chachar, PSCM Sajid Samal Abro, Secretary Health Zahid Abbasi, Brigadier Abul Sami COS 5 Corps, representatives of Rangers, FIA, CAA, Dr Bari, Dr Faisal and Focal Person MB Dharejo.
Health authorities said so far 189 people have been tested positive for Coronavirus in Karachi, seven in Hyderabad with four new cases on Saturday and one case in Dadu, of which one person has died so far while 182 are still under treatment. Officials said in Sindh, there are 132 cases of local transmission as the viral ailment is spreading like wild fire in the province despite lockdown. Presiding over the Taskforce meeting, Syed Murad Ali Shah expressing serious concern over number of community transmission cases of virus, said over 25 per cent cases are due to local spread of the infection. “The ratio is worrisome and needs to be contained further,” he said. Shah said that during the lock down, government should continue to strengthen its health facilities. “I want you (health department) to establish new 14 CCUs, one in Karachi and 13 in other thickly populated districts,” he added.
The chief Minister said that one CCU with 100-200 vent beds in Karachi and 13 CCU with 600 vent beds in different districts of the province would be established. He directed health secretary to equip the newly proposed vent bed CCU with ventilators and other necessary equipment, besides deputing with 850 medical officers, 1,320 nurses, ICU technicians and auxiliary staff. Sindh CM said that the CCU for Karachi should have 200 ventilators, 200 monitors, 200 pulse oximeters, 50 suction machines, 20 defibrillators and 50 compressors. They should have 100 doctors, 200 nurses, 75 ICU technicians and 120 auxiliary staff. He was told that in the province 45 hospitals have COVID-19 Isolation facilities. The 45 hospitals have 505 bed where 294 patients have been admitted, 291 were stable and 14 who had recovered were released to their homes.
Shah was told that out of 469 cases of Corona in Sindh, the bulk of 189 cases were in Karachi, followed by 162 of Sukkur (151 of Sukkur phase-I and 114 of Sukkur phase-II) seven in Larkana, one of Dadu and seven in Hyderabad. The meeting was told that total 5,322 tests were conducted so far, of them 4,835 turned out to be negative while 469 were diagnosed as positive. The chief minister said that in Karachi 12 new cases have emerged on Saturday while on March 27 the number of new cases was 17. “But the data shows that the cases of local transmission have reached 132,” he said. Shah said that during the last three days 41 (March 26 to 28) were detected. It may be noted that 63 persons of the city, had travel history. As many as 150 have been put under isolation at their homes, 14 were cured, one died and the remaining 20 person are under treatment in different hospitals of the city.
The IG Police Mushtaq Maher briefed the chief minister about the lock down, particularly about closing down the shops and other small business activities from 5pm from Saturday.