Calls for lockdown as corona cases cross 700

A panic-stricken Pakistan is heading towards a total lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus, as cases across the country reached 730 on Saturday night, with the government suspending international flights for at least two weeks.
All provinces reported new cases of the viral disease: Sindh has 396 cases, Punjab has 137, whereas Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have 104 and 27 cases, respectively. Islamabad has reported 10 cases so far, whereas Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan has 56 cases.
In the wake of the rising cases, the two major political parties, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), and other civil society segments, including lead economist Atif A Mian, have urged the government to impose a complete lockdown in the country before the situation goes out of hand.
In addition, the Sindh government has hinted at total lockdown of the province to contain the virus, with its spokesperson Murtaza Wahab saying that time has come to make “tough decisions”, whereas the Punjab and Balochistan governments have also opted for partial lockdown in the provinces for two and 21 days, respectively.
According to sources, the decision to impose a complete lockdown in Sindh with effect from Sunday was taken after CM Murad Ali Shah discussed “several options with Governor Imran Ismail, Karachi corps commander, Sindh Rangers DG and Sindh IGP in a meeting to ensure full implementation of the government’s decision of keeping people at their homes”.
“Time for some tough decisions. CM Sindh has discussed with Governor Sindh, Corps Commander Khi, DG Rangers & IG Sindh to ensure full implementation of Govt’s decision of keeping people at their homes. #SindhGovt will ensure that grocery & medical shops remain open,” Murtaza Wahab, Sindh government spokesperson, wrote.
This followed an earlier announcement by the federal government that it would suspend all international flight operations for two weeks as part of measures to contain the potential spread of coronavirus in the country. However, five flights of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) have been allowed to land in the country.
The flights that have been permitted to land in Pakistan include PK-792 (Birmingham – Islamabad), PK 702 (Manchester – Islamabad), PK-786 (London – Islamabad), PK788 (London – Karachi) and PK-722 (Oslo – Islamabad).
Addressing a press conference in the federal capital, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Security Division Dr Moeed Yousaf said that the restriction on flights will be effective from 8 pm on Saturday and to April 4.
He, however, said that flights carrying diplomats and cargo ships will continue their operations during this period.
Speaking on the occasion, Special Assistant on National Health Services Dr Zafar Mirza said that the government has decided to chalk out a mechanism for sharing and exchanging information between federal and provincial governments about the coronavirus pandemic.
The PM’s aide also appealed to the nation to practice social distancing on a long weekend to avoid transmission coronavirus.
“I am very hopeful, if we practice social distancing, we will be able to control the pandemic,” he said, adding that the National Coordination Committee (NCC) was constituted to collect data and brief the nation about the national emergency.
Secondly, the NCC will deliver the messages through media on awareness and government’s action to prevent the transmission of the virus as well as to strengthen coordination between the provinces and the federal government, he said.
Thirdly, the purpose of constituting a committee was regarding the procurement of masks, ventilators, protective gear to enhance the capacity to fight the virus, he added.
“Protection of our frontline doctors treating infected people was government’s foremost priority,” Dr Mirza said, adding the NCC would deliver a univocal message to the nation using information technology.
He said that coronavirus has reached 186 countries and has affected 0.27 million people whereas, 11,431 people have died because of the infection, but 92,000 completely recovered– which gives hope.
He said that in Pakistan three people have died because of the virus and so far five people have recovered from the disease and many more would recover in the coming days. Mirza said that 13,991 people at all entry points were scanned in the last 24 hours and 1.4 million people have been screened so far at entry points.
He said in between February 28 to March 17, 6,304 people entered in Pakistan from Iran out which 2,421 arrived in Balochistan, 176 people arrived in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), 2,012 arrived in Punjab, 1,059 arrived in Sindh, 14 arrived in AJK and 523 arrived in Gilgit Baltistan (GB).
“It was decided to quarantine all returning citizens from Iran at Taftan and now the provinces were doing it again,” the SAPM said, adding that 3,378 people were spending time in quarantine facilities in different provinces.
He said that government of Pakistan has established 14 labs so far in all four provinces for testing coronavirus and more labs would be established soon.
In his remarks, NDMA Chairman Lieutenant General Muhammad Afzal expressed confidence that nation and civil and military leadership would win fight against COVID-19 through joint efforts. He said that 20,000 testing kits have arrived from China and were handed over to the National Institute of Health (NIH). He said that China will provide 100 ventilators to Pakistan in the coming days.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said that the World Bank has approved a $238 million grant to help Pakistan’s efforts against the coronavirus while the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has also approved a grant of $350 million for the same cause.
Taking to Twitter, Dr Firdous implored the nation to strictly follow precautionary measures against the fast-spreading coronavirus. She added that such challenges are tackled by the governments and countrymen together.
Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed on Saturday announced the suspension of 42 trains by April 1 as a preventive measure to restrict the transmission of coronavirus.
Addressing media, the minister said that 12 trains (6-up+down) will be suspended from Sunday evening whereas 22 trains (11-up+down) will be suspended from the Tuesday morning and the other 8 trains (4-up+down) will be suspended on April 1.
Khushhal Express, Akber Express, Sindh Express, Ravi Express, Shah Latif and Rohi Express, (6-up+6 down) will be closed from Sunday evening whereas Jinnah Express, Bolan Express, Moinjo Daro Express, Thal Express, Marvi Express, Samman Shakir Express, Faisalabad Express, Mosa Pak Express, and Channab Express will be suspended on March 25, he added.

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