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 a million people in 202 countries and territories of the world – more than 55,000 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 2,750 with 839 cases in Sindh, 1,087 in Punjab, 185 in Balochistan, 347 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 205 in Gilgit-Baltistan, 75 in Islamabad and 12 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
The virus has so far claimed 40 lives in Pakistan, while at least 130 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.
11:00pm: 23 more test positive for COVID-19 in Balochistan and G-B
Twenty-three more people were tested positive in Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan, raising the tally to 185 and 295 in both regions respectively.
A total of 114 tests were conducted in Gilgit-Baltistan, out of which 13 were positive.
In Balochistan, 10 new cases emerged. 17 people have also recovered from the COVID-19 in the province.
9:15pm: Residents of coronavirus hotspot Manga in K-P test negative after 14-day lockdown
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Health Minister Taimur Khan Jahgra has shared good news that 109 randomly-picked residents of Manga village in Mardan have tested negative for COVID-19 after a 14-day lockdown.
“More good news! Follow up random testing in Manga, Mardan shows 109 / 109 randomly selected people tested for #coronavirus - with negative results. Manga has been under lockdown for 14+ days, people have worked with the govt to make the lockdown work, and the results show!,” he wrote on his official Twitter handle.
More good news! Follow up random testing in Manga, Mardan shows 109 / 109 randomly selected people tested for #coronavirus - with negative results. Manga has been under lockdown for 14+ days, people have worked with the govt to make the lockdown work, and the results show! pic.twitter.com/2eRDvRZ1QO— Taimur Khan Jhagra (@Jhagra) April 4, 2020
7:45pm: 12 more patients recuperate from COVID-19 in Sindh as number of recoveries rises to 86
Another 12 patients have recovered and their coronavirus tests came negative on Saturday, Sindh government’s spokesperson Murtaza Wahab said.
“Now the total number of recovered patients in Sindh stands at 86. People should learn that isolation or social distancing is the only cure to COVID-19. These 86 isolated themselves, can you?” he wrote on his official Twitter handle.
Another 12 patients have recovered & their corona virus test has come negative. Now the total number of recovered patients in Sindh stand at 86. People should learn that isolation or social distancing is the only cure to #COVIDー19. These 86 isolated themselves, can you?— Murtaza Wahab Siddiqui (@murtazawahab1) April 4, 2020
7:30pm: Pakistan gives stranded Afghans four-day window to leave
At the special request of Afghanistan government, Pakistan has decided to allow the exit of Afghan nationals, wishing to go back to their country.
“The Torkham and Chaman land border crossings will be opened for a specific period from April 6 to April 9 to facilitate Afghan nationals,” a statement issued by the Foreign Office said on Saturday.
The statement noted that that as a neighbour and in view of fraternal bilateral relations, Pakistan remains in abiding solidarity with the people of Afghanistan, particularly at this time of global pandemic.
In order to tackle the novel coronavirus, Pakistan has sealed its borders both with Iran and Afghanistan. The government, however, earlier allowed the movement of goods at Torkhm border.
Read more here.
6:00pm: PM Imran urges 'Corona Tigers' to be relentless in war against COVID-19
Prime Minister Imran Khan has urged the Coronavirus Relief Tiger Force to be relentless in their struggle against the deadly virus “without any pause or break”.
“We don’t know when coronavirus will end and how prevalent it will be in Pakistan,” he said while addressing CRF volunteers in Lahore.
5:30pm: Health minister advises people against paying heed to estimated COVID-19 tally
State Minister for Health Dr Zafar Mirza has appealed the people not to pay heed to the estimated number of coronavirus cases after a government report submitted in the Supreme Court said that the country's COVID-19 cases could reach up to 50,000 by April 25.
“Number of coronavirus cases being reported in media is estimation,” he said while urging people to act responsibly and follow the government’s directives at a news conference in Islamabad on Saturday.
Dr Mirza reassured the masses that the authorities are constantly monitoring the situation and are taking all necessary steps required to curb the spread of coronavirus.
5:05pm: PM Imran addresses corona relief ceremony in Lahore
Prime MInister Imran Khan addressed a ceremony held in connection with his coronavirus relief fund in Lahore on Saturday.
He urged people to be steadfast in their faith and have conviction that the nation will get through this difficult time. “Businesses that try to exploit such situations always face consequences,” he warned.
“Having patience in times of difficulty is the greatest quality of human beings,” said the premier. “We will emerge as a stronger nation after we overcome coronavirus,” he maintained.
“I often hear of stories circulating on social media that Allah has made Pakistanis such that they are resilient and won't be affected by coronavirus. Please don't believe in such stories,” he advised.
3:40pm: PM arrives in Lahore
Prime Minister Imran Khan has arrived in Lahore on a day-long visit.
The premier will meet local officials and visit the quarantine centre established at Lahore's Expo Centre.
He is accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Minister for Science and Technology Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mehmood, and Prime Minister's Special Assistants Dr Sania Nishtar, Shehzad Akbar, and Usman Dar.
3:00pm: Govt predicts 50,000 cases by April 25
The federal government informed the Supreme Court that they are expecting over 50,000 cases in the country by April 25.
2:10pm: Govt to give one-month extra salary to healthcare professionals
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said, as per the directives of Imran Khan, the government has decided to give one-month extra salary to healthcare professionals as an acknowledgement of their efforts.
1:46pm: Three more test positive in AJK
Three more people tested positive for the virus in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, raising the provincial tally to 12.
One patient is from Rawalakot and two from Southern Bhimber district.
1:25pm: 13 released from quarantine centre in Mardan
13 people were released from the quarantine centre in Mardan, after staying there for 15 days.
Four were kept in isolation and the remaining nine were quarantined.
The patients were discharged after completing the checkup.
1:20pm: Sindh govt to purchase 2,00,000 COVID kits from UK-based company
Murad Ali Shah said the Sindh government will purchase 2,00,000 testing kits from a UK-based company.
He also approved the procurement of 1,00,000 kits with rapid test machines from Canada, as well as six new PCR machines.
The chief minister said the province is equipped with 7,500 test kits - which is enough for the next week - and an additional 15,000 kits will be received in the next three days.
1:00pm: Senator Murtaza Wahab confirms nine more recoveries
Adviser to Sindh chief minister Murtaza Wahab confirmed that nine more patients have recovered in the province.
He said the total number of recoveries in Sindh stand at 74.
"People should learn that isolation or social distancing is the only cure to COVID-19," he added.
Another 9 patients have recovered & their corona virus test has come negative. Now the total number of recovered patients in Sindh stand at 74. People should learn that isolation or social distancing is the only cure to #COVIDー19. These 74 isolated themselves, can you?
— SenatorMurtaza Wahab (@murtazawahab1) April 4, 2020
12:20pm: Four new cases reported in K-P
Deputy Commissioner Abdul Haseeb has reported four more positive cases in Lakki Marwat District.
All four belong to the Tableeghi Jamaat and have been isolated - along with 15 other members - at District Headquarters Hospital.
The patients are residents of Mama Khel and Ahmed Khel. Both districts have been temporarily sealed.
12:00pm: China donates 20,000 face masks to Islamabad police
China donated 20,000 face masks to police in Islamabad.
Islamabad Inspector General (IG) of Police Muhammad Aamir Zulfiqar thanked the Chinese ambassador for the assistance.
“Pak-China friendship is deeper than the sea and higher than the Himalayas,” said Zulfiqar, adding that Pakistan will contain the virus with China’s assistance.
11:40am: Chinese Embassy in Pakistan lowers the flag
As a tribute to those who lost their lives in the battle against the novel coronavirus, the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan lowered their flag to half-mast.
11:20am: PM says agricultural sector, construction sector will remain open
Prime Minister Imran Khan said the federal government is walking a tightrope having to balance between a lockdown, people dying of hunger and ensuring the economy does not collapse.
He further added that educational institutions, malls, marriage halls and restaurants have been shut, but in order to ensure the economy does not collapse, the agricultural sector and the construction sector will remain open.
In the subcontinent, with a high rate of poverty, we are faced with the stark choice of having to balance between a lockdown necessary to slow down/prevent the spread of COVID19 & ensuring people don't die of hunger & our economy doesn't collapse. So we are walking a tightrope.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) April 4, 2020
We have locked down educational institutions, Malls, marriage halls, restaurants & other places where public congregates. But, to stop the devastation of the lockdown we have kept our agri sector open & now we are opening up our construction sector.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) April 4, 2020
11:05am: PIA flight from Islamabad to the UK restored
Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight operations from Islamabad to Britain have been restored, as flight PK-9701 departed for the United Kingdom (UK).
Passengers were screened and disinfectant was sprayed all over the airport to ensure the safety of passengers and employees.
11:00am: PM Imran to visit Lahore today
Prime Minister Imran Khan will travel to Lahore, where he will be briefed about steps taken by the provincial government to curb the spread of the virus.
The premier will hold meetings with Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar.
10:15am: Railway sheds sanitised in Lahore
Railway sheds in Lahore were washed with chlorine to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Divisional Mechanical Engineer Mohammad Ismail said locomotive engines, sheds and offices were cleaned with chlorine to protect employees from the outbreak.
Drums of water and disinfectant were placed in various areas of the shed for employees to wash their hands, he added.
9:40am: 32,930 tests conducted nationwide
A total of 32,930 tests have been conducted in the country, reported the National Command and Operations Centre.
9:35am: Three new recoveries reported
Three more patients recovered from the novel coronavirus, raising the number of recoveries in the country to 130.
The virus has so far claimed 40 lives - 14 in Sindh, 11 in Punjab, 11 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), three in Gilgit-Baltistan and one in Balochistan.
9:30am: New cases emerge across the country
The National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) reported new cases in Sindh, Punjab, Islamabad and Azad Jammu and Kashmir as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases crossed 2,700.
Nine new cases emerged in Sindh, three in Punjab, seven in Islamabad and two in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
7:22am: K-P to announce Locum programme for medical staff
K-P Health Minister Taimur Khan Jhagra said the provincial government will announce a Locum programme for doctors, nurses, paramedics, pharmacists and psychologists.
Under the programme, medical staff will be paid on a daily basis.
In the #Coronavirus crisis, we need to protect our doctors, paramedics & other health staff by providing them back up.
Next week we will launch our Locum programme for doctors, nurses, paramedics, pharmacists & psychologists. We need your help, from across KP & all over Pakistan. pic.twitter.com/UMTxEVTj5c
— Taimur Khan Jhagra (@Jhagra) April 4, 2020
6:55am: Pilgrims at the DI Khan quarantine released
K-P Health Minister Taimur Khan Jhagra thanked over 100 pilgrims at the Dera Ismail Khan quarantine centre for cooperating with the government.
He said they were safe to go home and hoped that those who tested positive would be immune to the virus.
1. The joy of freedom! We are going home!
Thank you to the 100+ Zaireen at the DI Khan quarantine, for collaborating with the KP govt. You can now safely go home. Many of you who tested positive may hopefully now be immune to the #coronavirus as well. pic.twitter.com/4iY0m4IsQv
— Taimur Khan Jhagra (@Jhagra) April 4, 2020
11:00pm: Jemima Goldsmith checks on 'Pakistani Twitter friends'
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s former wife Jemima Goldsmith took to social media to check on her “Pakistani Twitter friends” amid lockdown.
She sent her love and salams to the people in Pakistan and recognised that as difficult as the conditions are in the United Kingdom (UK), they are so much harder in Pakistan.
Read more here.