ISLAMABAD / KARACHI / PESHAWAR / QUETTA / LAHORE: The novel coronavirus emerged in the central China city of Wuhan towards the end of last year and proliferated to almost the whole world within a couple of months. It’s not the virulence or fatality, but the infectivity of the new virus – also known as SARS-CoV-2 – that has set off a global frenzy. The COVID-19 respiratory illness caused by this mysterious contagion has so far infected more than half a million people in 202 countries and territories of the world – more than 40,000 of them have died and counting.
China appears to have stemmed the tide against the viral outbreak as it has eased lockdown restrictions in Wuhan, the ground-zero of the virus, after two months, but new hotspots have emerged in Europe, Iran and the United States. In Europe, Italy and Spain are bearing the brunt as their death toll combined makes up more than half of the fatalities caused by COVID-19.
Pakistan, despite its close proximity with China, remained coronavirus-free until February 26 when a young man from Karachi tested positive after returning from Iran – one of the worst-hit countries. After a brief hiatus following the first case, COVID-19 cases spiked as more pilgrims returning from Iran tested positive for the virus.
The nationwide tally of COVID-19 patients has crossed 2,200 with 709 cases in Sindh, 845 in Punjab, 158 in Balochistan, 276 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 187 in Gilgit-Baltistan, 58 in Islamabad and nine in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
The virus has so far claimed 30 lives in Pakistan, while over 80 COVID-19 patients have fully recovered.
The situation remains fluid and we’re updating stats as soon as new figures are officially released.
Follow The Express Tribune’s live coverage of the pandemic here.
12:00pm: One more succumbs to COVID-19 in Punjab as number of patients rises to 845
The Punjab government has confirmed one more casualty of coronavirus in the province, raising the death toll to 10.
A 35-year-old woman died at Mayo Hospital, Lahore.
Total number of COVID-19 cases stand at 845.
9:00pm: Army stands by nation to guard border between people and coronavirus: COAS
Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa has said that the armed forces will stand “shoulder to shoulder with the nation to guard the border between people and COVID-19” as nationwide tally of the novel coronavirus cases surged past 2,100 with 29 deaths.
“Pakistan Army being part of national effort will not leave any stone unturned for security and safety of people of Pakistan,” the chief of army staff was cited as saying by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).
According to the military’s media wing, Gen Qamar attended a special briefing held at the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) in Islamabad on Wednesday.
Read full story here.
8:15pm: Sindh reports ninth fatality, bringing Pakistan’s death toll to 29
Sindh’s Minister for Health and Population Welfare Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho has confirmed one more casualty in the province, bringing the death toll to nine.
The 59-year-old patient was a resident of Karachi and was brought to the hospital on March 19 after returning from Saudi Arab, where he was tested positive the same day, she said.
The patient had a history of acute respiratory distress syndrome and was on ventilator since the first day, add the provincial health minister.
Read more here.
7:45pm: Three coronavirus cases detected in G-B; tally hits 187
With three new patients of coronavirus in Gilgit-Baltistan, the total number of COVID-19 cases rose to 181 across the region on Wednesday.
7:30pm: 33 new COVID-19 cases take Sindh's tally to 709
Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pehuho has confirmed 33 new cases of local transmission in Karachi, taking the provincial tally of COVID-19 to 709.
Read more here.
7:15pm: Punjab reports another casualty as toll climbs to 10
An 83-year-old resident of Rawalpindi has become the latest victim of COVID-19 in Punjab, raising the provincial death toll to 10 and the country’s to 28.
The elderly man arrived from the United Kingdom a few days ago was admitted at Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Hospital, Rawalpindi.
7:00pm: Tally rises to nine as AJK reports two more COVID-19 cases
With three more coronavirus positive cases – two in Bhimber and one in Palandari area of Sudhanoti district – the total number of COVID-19 patients has climbed to nine in Azad Jamuu and Kashmir (AJK).
6:20pm: Ministers brief media after meeting of National Coordination Committee on COVID-19
The government has decided to extend the ongoing lockdown for another two weeks until April 14 to contain the spread of novel coronavirus in the country.
This was announced by Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar, flanked by PM’s aide on health Dr Zafar Mirza and on national security Moeed Yusuf, at a news conference after attending the meeting of National Coordination Committee (NCC) on COVID-19, held in Islamabad on Wednesday.
Umar said the forum will soon meet again to decide whether to relax or increase the restrictions.
The planning minister said that stranded overseas Pakistanis will be brought back to the country in a special PIA flight on April 4. The passengers will be first tested and sent for quarantine to ensure they do not spread the coronavirus, he added.
In the first stage, Umar said, the international flights will resume from Islamabad airport followed by Karachi.
“Lockdown throughout the country is bearing fruit as number of cases would have been much higher if containment steps were not taken in a timely manner,” he said.
Dr Mirza, speaking on the occasion, outlined the number of cases, deaths and number of citizens tested for COVID-19 so far since the outbreak.
“We saw a sharp spike in the number of cases in the country yesterday [Tuesday],” he said.
PM’s aide on national security, Moeed Yusuf said 17 PIA planes will be dispatched to different parts of the world to bring back 2,000 stranded Pakistanis.
#Live: Planning Minister @Asad_Umar , SAPM on Health @zfrmrza and SAPM on National Security Division @YusufMoeed briefing media in #Islamabad #CoronaFreePakistan #TogetherWeCan #CoronaVirusPakistan #PakistanFightsCorona #PMCoronaReliefFundhttps://t.co/7VTWGPdkZA— Radio Pakistan (@RadioPakistan) April 1, 2020
5:15pm: Complete lockdown between 12-3pm on Friday across Sindh
The Sindh government has decided to impose a ‘curfew-like’ lockdown on Friday from 12 noon to 3pm in a bid to maintain social distancing at the time of Juma prayer.
“Ulema have been asked not to allow common people – other than mosque staff – to offer the prayer in their mosques. Only designated staff like Imam, Muazen, Khadim of the mosque and one or two other employees of the mosque would be allowed to pray in jamaat [congregation],” an official in the provincial government told the media on Wednesday.
He said it would not be a curfew, but the government will make sure that business centers remain closed and no one attends religious congregations.
Read full story here.
5:10pm Japan to provide $2mn in assistance
Japan will give Pakistan $2.16 million as assistance in the fight against the novel coronavirus.
A statement said that Japan has decided to give a grant of $1,620,000 through The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and USD 540,000 through the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to Pakistan.
Read the story here
4:00pm: CM Buzdar, Dr Yasim Rashid visit 1,000-bed field hospital set up in Lahore’s Expo Center
Sitting there, the smile betrays my inner happiness at the milestones achieved, but more importantly from the satisfaction of serving my people well.— Dr. Yasmin Rashid (@Dr_YasminRashid) April 1, 2020
A resilient people, I know we will pull through it together In sha Allah#TogetherWeCan pic.twitter.com/S47TLQPlyb
3:35pm: PM Imran urges youth to play active role in fight against COVID-19
Prime Minister Imran Khan urged the youth to help fight against the COVID 19 by joining the Corona Tiger Force.
I want our youth to play their role in helping our fight against the COVID 19 by joining our Corona Tiger Force which will be organised to do jihad against the suffering caused by this pandemic— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) April 1, 2020
3:15pm: WATCH: PM Imran barely avoids breaking social distancing protocols
WATCH: PM #ImranKhan grins sheepishly as he barely avoids breaking #socialdistancing protocols upon arrival at #Rawalpindi hospital. #COVID19 #etribune #newshttps://t.co/aK9II7J9qK pic.twitter.com/0q0PlH8Gr4— The Express Tribune (@etribune) April 1, 2020
2:40pm: COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Fund-2020 set up
The COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Fund-2020 has been set up to help fight the pandemic, the premier posted on Twitter.
He urged people to donate to the fund to help those in need, during this difficult time.
Prime Minister’s COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Fund-2020 has been set up to help us fight this pandemic. I want everyone to donate towards this fund which will be used to take care of all those who have been made destitute by the lockdown.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) April 1, 2020
2:20pm: PM to chair National Coordination Committee meeting today
The National Coordination Committee (NCC) on coronavirus will meet today to discuss ways to deal with the pandemic and its impact on the country.
The meeting will be chaired by the premier.
2:00pm: Govt ensuring effective steps on emergency basis
State Health Minister Dr Zafar Mirza said the government is ensuring effective steps on an emergency basis to curb the spread of the virus.
He said a 30-bed facility is available at PIMS in Islamabad and another 80 beds will be added in the next 15 days.
A quarantine facility has been established at various buildings and isolation rooms have been arranged at different private hospitals in the federal capital, he added.
1:10pm: Another three patients in Sindh recover
Adviser to Sindh Chief Minister Murtaza Wahab said another three patients in Sindh have recovered, raising the provincial tally of recovered cases to 54.
He said isolation and social distancing is the only cure to the pandemic.
Another 3 patients have recovered & their corona virus test has come negative. Now the total number of recovered patients in Sindh stand at 54. People should learn that isolation or social distancing is the only cure to corona virus. These 54 isolated themselves, can you?
— SenatorMurtaza Wahab (@murtazawahab1) April 1, 2020
12:38pm: PM promises necessary support to medical staff
Prime Minister Imran Khan promised to provide necessary support to the medical staff and said it is the government's top priority to protect them.
"We all know there is pressure on health workers in wake of the pandemic. Your [medical staff] protection is our number one priority," he said.
Read more here.
12:20pm: PM inaugurates upgradation project of Cantonment General Hospital
The premier inaugurated the upgradation project of the Cantonment General Hospital in Rawalpindi.
He visited different areas of the hospital and reviewed the facilities.
He was briefed about the hospital's upgradation.
12:02pm: Jail authorities ask police to isolate prisoners for two weeks
Jail authorities ordered police to ensure that prisoners avoid interacting with the general public and remain in complete isolation at their home for at least two weeks.
10:38am: 'COVID-19 Care for Media' app to be launched today
Special Assistant on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said the 'COVID-19 Care for Media' application will be launched today, as per the directives of the premier.
She said journalists and other citizens can get themselves registered and report their cases through the app.
The app will be useful in determining the correct number of affected people.
10:31am: G-B reports 18 more cases, four more in Balochistan
Gilgit-Baltistan reported 18 new cases and four more were reported in Balochistan as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases soars past 2,000.10:15am: K-P health minister appreciates medical community
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Health Minister Taimur Khan Jhagra said the provincial government is engaging with Insaf Doctors Forum (IDF) and Young Doctors Association (YDA) to tackle the growing number of novel coronavirus cases.
Referring to them as medical heroes, Jhagra thanked the entire medical community and first responders for being on the frontline.
In engagement with Insaf Doctors Forum (IDF) & Young Doctors Association (YDA) received unequivocal support!
Once again on behalf of CM @IMMahmoodKhan & the KP Govt, I thank the entire medical community & all first responders for being on the front line. You are our heroes! pic.twitter.com/HxeSKeEYhW
— Taimur Khan Jhagra (@Jhagra) April 1, 2020
10:00am: 192,000 test kits to arrive from China today
The premier said China donated the third consignment of medical equipment to Pakistan, consisting of 192,000 test kits, which will arrive today.
9:30am: NDMA to set up 12 more labs to test COVID-19
National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Chairman Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal informed Prime Minister Imran Khan that currently there are 20 fully functional coronavirus labs and 12 more will be established soon.
9:00am: Hyderabad hosts most local transmission cases in Pakistan
Hyderabad hosts the most local transmission cases in Pakistan, with 126 locally transmitted cases of its total 128.
The locally transmitted cases include 94 tableeghi jamaat members [preaching groups].
In just two days, the total number of cases in Hyderabad shot up from seven to 128, following the mass testing at Noor mosque in Wahdat Colony.
At least 200 people were quarantined in the mosque and tested by health authorities.
Read more here.
Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid reported a total of 708 confirmed coronavirus cases in the province.
She said the number of fatalities are few in number.
Total count of confirmed #COVID19 patients in Punjab stand at 708 now.
Alhamdolillah the fatalities are few in number, each life precious.
Protection is the best way to avoid contracting the disease. It's a new virus, do not trust myths & trials for treatment & precaution.
— Dr. Yasmin Rashid (@Dr_YasminRashid) March 31, 2020