Lockdown in Pakistan eased but numbers of affectees and deaths surged

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Tally 24,892, Punjab 9,195, Sindh 9093, KPK 3,956, Islamabad 521,

Balochistan 1,663, GB 388, AJK 76, recovered 6464, deaths 591

Nation special report

ISLAMABAD: In Pakistan, the federal government has decided to ease the lockdown restrictions from Saturday after it had had an adverse impact on the economy but simultaneously, the numbers of fatalities and affectees have jumped on Thursday.

Pakistan has been recording 1,000 new coronavirus cases on average daily, states the World Health Organization (WHO) in its daily situation report about the disease in the country.

The WHO report, dated May 6, finds that the number cases reported per day has risen to 1,000 on average this week in Pakistan, doubling since mid-April. The nationwide tally of COVID-19 patients has jumped to 24,648 while the death toll has reached 585. Number of patients recovered from Coronavirus is 6,464 now.

Prime Minister Imran Khan

According to the latest figures by the National Command and Operation Center, Sindh remains the worst-hit province by the pandemic followed by Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. Till now 9,195 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Punjab, 9,093 in Sindh, 3,712 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 1,663 in Balochistan, 521 in Islamabad, 388 in Gilgit-Baltistan and 76 in Azad Kashmir.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, speaking after the meeting of National Coordination Committee (NCC) in Islamabad on Thursday, said, “We have decided to open the country in a phased manner from Saturday and it is now the responsibility of the masses to follow the rules otherwise we would be forced to reverse the decision.”

PM Imran said, “I was in favour of allowing public transport but the provinces did not agree to it. So, it has been decided that the provinces will make their own standard operating procedures (SOPs) and share with the Centre.”

Referring to NCOC’s role, he said that the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) headed by Planning Minister Asad Umar meets daily and analyses the current situation and take input from the provinces as well.

They consult with doctors and experts and then take the decision, said the premier. “We are still not sure when will the coronavirus peak come, in one or two months, but we have to open our industries as the daily wage earners and labourers are suffering due to the lockdown and closure of businesses.”

Revealing the decisions taken in the meeting, Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar announced that more sectors related to the construction industry, which was partially reopened last month, were allowed to resume business activities.

In addition to the opening of selected out patient departments (OPDs), which will treat specific diseases, markets were also granted permission to operate however between specific hours. “Markets will open after sahoor but will close at 5:00 pm,” Umar announced, adding that they will remain closed for two days per week.

The government has also cancelled all board examinations and students will now be passed/failed based on their results from the previous year.

Educational institutions which were previously tipped to open on June 1 will now remain closed till July 15. Announcing the decision, Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mehmood said: “Students’ health and their education cannot be compromised.”

Pakistan had reported its first Covid-19 positive case on Feb 26 following which the government adopted a number of precautionary measures short of a national lockdown despite repeated calls by the opposition parties and the civil society to do so. The prime minister refused to oblige, noting that a nationwide lockdown will result in “poor dying from hunger”.

However, as the toll began to surge, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government in Sindh entered a provincewide lockdown, bringing life to a halt. The lead was followed by the rest of the provinces/administrative units which imposed quarantines, even suspending intra-city and inter-provincial transport.

Prime Minister Imran announced that public transport, however, will remain suspended on provinces’ concerns. “I believe it [public transport] should be reopened because it is the common man’s mode of transport but the provinces have reservations. We do not want to take decisions unless there is unanimity,” he said.