ISLAMABAD: The Minister for Planning and Development, Asad Umar, on Wednesday said the "restrictions" imposed as precautionary measures amid the coronavirus outbreak in the country will continue for two more weeks — April 1 to 14. The decision to extend the period of the restrictions was taken in a meeting of the National Coordination Committee (NCC). "The meetings of the NCC will be held regularly before 14 April to review the situation," Asad Umar said, while addressing a press conference alongside Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza and Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Security Division and Strategic Policy Planning Moeed Yousuf.
"The industries manufacturing basic necessities — food, medicine, and power etc. — will operate as they are crucial at this time," he said, adding: "These restrictions will bear fruit only if basic necessities are being provided to the people. The federal and provincial governments are on the same page in this regard," he said. "Goods transport will continue as all members present in the meeting had agreed on cooperating in this regard," he noted. "On April 4, the first flight will arrive in Islamabad via Pakistan International Airlines. Passengers will be tested and they will be kept in quarantine facility till the results are received," he said, referring to the government's aim to begin resuming flight operations. “If they test negative, then we will ask them to self-quarantine and take necessary precautionary measures,” the minister said. "On April 5, we will review this measure of bringing people in from abroad, if it is successful then flights will resume from different airports of the country, domestic flights will remain suspended," he said.
"The restrictions imposed have limited the spread of the coronavirus. If they had not been imposed more cases would have emerged," said Asad Umar. “While we have extended the restrictions till April 14, we have to remember to maintain social distancing. The people should also observe self-quarantine,” said Dr Mirza, as he took over the press briefing.
“If we make the restrictions more stern then it will yield better results,” he explained, adding: “Several offices are still using biometric for attendance. We strictly advise them against it.” Globally, over 800,000 people have been infected with the coronavirus with more than 42,000 deaths, while 21 percent have recovered.
Speaking of the situation in Pakistan, Dr Mirza said: “The total number of suspected cases are 17,331 out of which an increase of 1,436 was recorded in the past 24 hours. The surge is high; the average increase per day is 12 percent.” “Currently, there are a total of 2,049 cases in Pakistan, with an increase of 178 in the past 24 hours,” he said.
Moeed Yousuf, in his briefing, said that from April 3-11, 17 PIA flights will fly to several countries, and special flights will go to places where our nationals are stranded. "The biggest concern of ours is testing the people coming in to the country. The technical staff has said that we can bring in 2,000 passengers right now," he said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the coronavirus would continue spreading in the country but at what ratio would be determined within a week. He observed this while addressing a ceremony after inaugurating the upgradation project of Cantonment General Hospital Rawalpindi. The prime minister said, “The coronavirus will continue spreading, but at what ratio is not yet known. However, the government would have an idea about this, as data is being collected from everywhere and is being processed.” He said the number of patients may increase to 50,000 if precautionary measures were not taken.
So far, he pointed out, owing to the blessings of Allah Almighty, there was no escalation of virus cases in the country, as had been witnessed in the Western countries and the fatalities were also significantly lesser than the West. The prime minister held out an assurance to the health practitioners, including doctors, nurses and others, who worked in hospitals that the government stood by them and would provide them full protection in the fight against coronavirus. He maintained that doctors, nurses and other medical staff were the vanguards and in the frontline of battle against coronavirus and they would be provided with the necessary protective equipment to ensure their safety and health. The prime minister said discussions were under way on daily basis as to how the health workers could be further supported and incentives be given to them.
Referring to the increasing demand of protective equipment and ventilators in the world after the breakout of the pandemic, the prime minister said Pakistan was fortunate that China was giving us preference in provision of the equipment after controlling the virus in its own land. Castigating the past governments, the prime minister regretted that the health sector was not given preference over the last seven decades, adding the standard of our hospitals was better up till 60s and 70s, but then allocations for both the education and the health sectors were brought down.
Earlier, the prime minister visited different sections of the hospital and reviewed the facilities made available there. On the occasion, he was briefed about the hospital's upgradation.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan said in a private television channel’s telethon for collection of donations for PM Corona Relief Fund that Pakistanis had always fought with unity in difficult times and the nation would also win the war against the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
He noted that the government had announced a historic financial stimulus package worth $8 billion from its own resources to deal with the adverse impact of the coronavirus pandemic in the country.
He pointed out that although 12 million poor families across Pakistan were registered with the Ehsaas Programme, 80 percent labourers in Pakistan were yet to be registered. Imran Khan said the government would maintain record of all the funds collected under Prime Minister's COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Fund and would be spent on merit under a transparent mechanism.