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Corona cases surge as lockdown eases

Top Story

May 10, 2020

Corona cases surge as lockdown eases

ISLAMABAD: The country registered a sharp increase in the number of coronavirus confirmed cases and fatalities on Saturday with the ease of lockdown.

Majority of people, especially those who were out to do the Eid shopping, had least regard for and adherence to the safety protocols set by the federal and provincial governments. The shopkeepers and the buyers were equally responsible for flouting the SOPs.

The number of confirmed cases increased to 28,745 in the country with addition of 2,301 cases.

Of the total 28,745 confirmed cases, Sindh reported 10,771, cases, Punjab 10,471, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 4,509, Balochistan 1876, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) 609, Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) 430 and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) 79 as of 12:25am.

The number of deaths has increased to 641, with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reporting 234 deaths, Sindh 181, Balochistan 24, Gilgit-Baltistan 4, Punjab 194, and Islamabad Capital Territory 4.

Meanwhile, at least four persons have died while a staggering 1,080 new COVID-19 cases have emerged in Sindh during the last 24 hours, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said on Saturday, adding that of these, 691 cases were reported from Karachi alone.

This number,1,080, is the highest of the Covid-19 cases recorded in any province so far since the emergence of the first case on March 26, ringing alarm bells. Besides Karachi, Pir-jo-Goth of Khairpur district has emerged as another hot spot of the contagion with 246 new cases in a single day.

“For the first time since eruption of epidemic in the province on February 26, Sindh has diagnosed 1,080 cases by conducting 5,498 tests which means 20 percent of the tested people came positive. This is the highest ratio ever reported in any province and worst situation has emerged in Pir-jo-Goth of Khairpur district where 246 new cases have been diagnosed in a day,” a visibly perturbed chief minister said.

The chief minister said the 1080 cases “seem to be the peak and it may rise further with increase in the number tests,” adding that the testing capacity was being enhanced to 6,450 per day.

Murad Ali Shah said that the Sindh government had conducted 87,108 tests against which 10,771 cases were diagnosed which constituted 12.4 percent of the total tests.

He said four more patients had lost their lives while struggling against the virus and now the death toll has reached to 180 which was 1.7 percent of the total patients.

The chief minister said that at present 8,571 patients were under treatment, including 7,432 in home isolation, 609 at Isolation Centers and 530 at different hospitals.

“I am sorry to say that 101 patients or 17.2 percent of the total patients were in critical condition, of them 23 are on ventilators,” he said. He also said that 80 more patients were cured and sent back to their homes with necessary advice and prescriptions.

In Karachi, out of total 1,080 new case, the chief minister said 691 belong to Karachi. Giving a breakup, he said 143 cases were detected in district South, 133 in Malir, 113 East, 76 in Central, 61 in Korangi and 55 in the West. Shah said that through a special drive of random testing at grocery and vegetables shops, their vendors and customers, were conducted and some of the shopkeepers and the customers were found positive.

“This is a dangerous sign and speaks loud of the local spread, this is why I have been requesting people not to go out of home unnecessarily and even it was necessary people must wear masks and follow the SOPs,” he advised.

In case of other districts of the province, the chief minister said that local spread has hit high, but Khairpur is the worst affected district where taluka Pir-jo-Goth has reported 246 cases in a single day. He added that a woman of Pir-jo-Goth visited Hyderabad and fell ill on return and died within two days.

“I think she was coronavirus suspect case, since she was not tested, therefore she was not being counted among the coronavirus patients or those that died because of that,” he said and added he was suspecting that she brought the virus back to Pir-jo-Goth from Hyderabad and infected others in the village. Her Namaz-e-Jinaza was offered without observing SOPs, he said and added following that the government started testing all those who were with her family members and had attended the funeral.

Giving details of the samples tested so far, CM Shah said that on May 4, 35 people [of Pir-jo-Goth] were tested, of them 10 were diagnosed as positive, on 6 May, 97 villagers were tested and found 14 positive. On 7 May, 59 more people were tested and seven came positive and finally 251 were tested on May 8 and found 246 as positive. “This is a very serious situation and the cases are multiplying fast in Pir-jo-Goth,” he said.

Murad Ali Shah directed the district administration of Khairpur to impose strict lockdown in Pir-jo-Goth and isolate the patients in their homes or shift them to Isolation center Sukkur. Murad Shah said that 15 testing kits were sent to Pir-jo-Goth where seven sampling teams have been deployed to test people.

Briefing about the number of confirmed cases in districts of the province other than Karachi, the chief minister said that 266 Khairpur, including 246 of Pir-jo-Goth, 34 Sukkur, 19 Hyderabad, 17 Ghotki, 17 Larkana, eight Kandhkot-Kashmore, seven Shaheed Benazirabad, five Matiari, four Mirpurkhas, three each in Jamshoro and Kambar-Shahdadkot, two Tando Allahyar, each one in Jacobabad, Sanghar, Sujawal and Thatta.

Meanwhile, coronavirus claimed 13 more lives in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and infected 182 people on Saturday bringing death toll to 234 and total confirmed cases to 4509 in the province.

Six deaths took place in Peshawar, and one each in Charsadda, Khyber, Mardan, Swat, Malakand, Abbottabad, and Mansehra. Peshawar is leading in the province as well as the country with the highest number of fatalities and confirmed positive cases.

Out of 182 positive cases, 83 were reported from Peshawar alone, bringing the total number of positive cases to 1810. It has lost 141 people to the fatal disease so far, out of 234 total fatalities in KP. Only 90 people have so far recovered from Covid-19 in Peshawar. In KP, Peshawar Division that comprises Peshawar, Charsadda, Nowshera, Khyber and Mohmand districts, has suffered the most the coronavirus. It has lost 153 lives and reported 2061 positive cases till date. Nowshera in the Peshawar division suffered the most and lost six lives followed by Charsadda with four human losses.

The Malakand Division is the second in terms of losses against coronavirus, where 39 people have died of the infectious disease, and 20 of them lost their lives in Swat alone. It had reported 1087 positive cases so far, in which Swat alone recorded 335 positive cases. In KP, 1086 people had so far recovered from coronavirus.

KP Minister for Health Taimur Saleem Jhagra said that the government is easing lockdown to facilitate the public.

Urging the general public and the trader community to follow the safety SOPs outlined by the government, the minister said the government is monitoring the coronavirus statistics during the relaxed lockdown.

“If the virus spreads at a greater ratio, the lockdown will be made strict again,” he said.

Earlier, on Friday, the KP government had announced a further easing of the lockdown in the province to facilitate economic activity.

According to an official notification, the provincial government has allowed all shops to remain open for four days a week.

Apart from shops selling daily need items, other shops will remain closed from Friday to Sunday.

The businesses have been allowed to operate until 4pm.

The KP government said the decision regarding inter-district and other forms of transportation will be taken after consultation with the relevant district unions.

The KP government has said it will follow guidelines issued by the federal government. Wazir has said that schools, industries and other sectors will open in line with the Centre’s policy.

KP Information Adviser, Ajmal Wazir, Saturday said the ease in the province's lockdown did not mean that the fight against coronavirus was over.

“It is a test for the government as well as for the people,” he said whle addressing the media here.

He said discussions with the traders are underway and the decision on a further easing of the lockdown will depend on the implementation of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPS) by the business community and the people in general.

“If shopkeepers are found violating the safety measures, businesses will be closed on the spot,” warned the minister, adding that failure to implement SOPS "would not be tolerated at any cost".

Lauding the services of doctors and paramedic staff, Wazir noted that the contributions of the front-line workers will be remembered for generations to come.

While sharing the daily situational report of coronavirus in the province, the minister said 12 deaths have been reported in the province during the last 24 hours, bringing the province-wide tally to 221.

With 49 new recovered patients, around 1,033 patients have recovered from the virus in the province to date, he added.

Meanwhile, Punjab information minister Fayyaz Chohan said that Punjab will witness a complete lockdown on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays while restrictions will be relaxed in the four other working days of the week when all shops and markets will remain open with proper implementation of all SOPs.

“Big plazas and shopping centers will remain closed for seven days,” he said, speaking to media.

Responding to the hue and cry of the traders' community, Chohan said that the notification regarding new decisions in the province will be issued shortly.

Maintaining that Chief Minister Usman Buzdar stands by the victims of coronavirus, he said that the Government of Punjab had launched relief packages for the frontline workers before any other provincial government.

“In acknowledgment of the services of media workers, the government has decided to allocate Rs100,000 for any media worker who contracts coronavirus in line of duty,” the provincial minister said, adding that in case the worker succumbs to the virus, Rs 1mn will be given to the victim families along with a monthly pension of Rs 10,000.

After Prime Minister Imran Khan’s announcement to relax the lockdown across the country from Saturday, the business community in Punjab still awaits an official notification from the provincial government to resume commercial operations in the province.

As of today, few shops were opened in Lahore, whereas, the major markets were closed in the capital city.

“We are waiting for official notification from the officials in order to resume operations after prime minister’s announcement earlier on Thursday, however, we have not received any instructions regarding the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) issued by the provincial government as of yet,” said one of the traders.

Read also: PM Imran announces ease in coronavirus lockdown from Saturday

Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced to ease the lockdown in Pakistan given the impact it has had on the economy.

Speaking after a meeting of the National Coordination Committee (NCC), which is the apex coronavirus decision-making body comprising top civil and military leaders, including the provincial chief executives, PM Imran had said the country would be opened "in a phased manner from Saturday".

"It is now the responsibility of the masses to follow the rules; otherwise, we would be forced to reverse the decision. I was in favour of allowing public transport but the provinces did not agree to it.

"It has therefore been decided that the provinces will make their own standard operating procedures (SOPs) and share [them] with the Centre.”