PESHAWAR / ABBOTTABAD: The provincial government on Friday decided to extend public holidays and closure of markets across the province by another week, starting Sunday, due to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic as total cases rose to 343, including two deaths.
Meanwhile, at least four members of a family were killed and five others were wounded on the outskirts of the provincial capital on Friday following a tiff on offering the Friday prayers in a local mosque over Covid-19 fears.
A special meeting of the provincial cabinet was held on Friday with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Chief Minister Mahmood Khan in the chair. The meeting reviewed the latest situation from Covid-19 across the province.
In a briefing on procuring essential medical equipment for the treatment of Covid-19 patients and personal protective equipment (PPEs) for frontline health workers, the cabinet was told that so far the health department has procured equipment worth Rs1.5 billion. This includes ventilators, surgical masks, N-95 face masks and other essential items. Procurement of additional items was in process.
Moreover, officials said that testing capacity for Covid-19 in suspected patients has been considerably increased while the department was working to further enhance it.
Mahmood also directed to ensure strict implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) in quarantine centres and isolation units set up at the district level.
The chief minister further directed senior officers of the home and relief departments to make all necessary arrangements for facilitating individuals of the Tableeghi Jamaat staying in different parts of the province.
Later, while briefing the media on the cabinet’s decisions, Adviser to CM on Information Ajmal Wazir said that the cabinet was satisfied over the current situation of wheat and flour stocks in the province.
The adviser added that the cabinet had unanimously decided to extend the public holidays and closure of markets for another week starting from Sunday.
“The cabinet approved, in principle, the salary package for professionals who will be hired on a daily-wage basis for supporting the existing health staff in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said, adding that the professionals include pathologists, pulmonologist, nurses and other medical staff.
Regarding the distribution of money under the relief package approved by the government, the advisor said that some 2.1 million households of the province will be paid Rs12,000 cash in the first phase, and Rs6,000 in the second phase.
The Peshawar police said that two groups argued in the Asahab Baba area on the outskirts of the city on Friday about holding Friday congregational prayers in the local mosque.
One side was of the view that they should not offer prayers in the mosque due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The other side, however, disagreed and insisted on offering prayers in the mosque, officers said.
This led to scuffles, the police said, adding that members of one group retrieved a Kalashnikov AK-47 automatic rifle from their home and started firing at the members of the other side.
At least four people were killed on the spot while five others suffered bullet injuries. Hospital officials described the condition of two of the injured as serious.
The dead were identified as Abdul Majid, Murad Ali, Noor and Nabi Gul. Those who were injured were Inamullah, Irfan, Ihsan and Nabi Gul’s wife and another who has yet to be identified.
As officers at the Mathra police station heard about the incident, a squad rushed to the spot and cordoned off the area. The bodies were shifted to a morgue while the injured were shifted to the hospital.
32 new cases
As many as 32 patients tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday with the total positive cases rising to 343 in the province. rose to 24 in the Hazara Division on Friday.
A daily bulletin issued by the provincial health department on Friday said that 420 suspected cases had emerged over the past 24 hours of which 103 had so far tested negative. Among those who tested positive 10 were from Swat, six were from Abbottabad, eight in Hangu, four in Peshawar, two in Mansehra and one each in Buner and Upper Dir.
Two deaths were also reported including one in Mansehra and one In Swat.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2020.