Lockdown helped slow virus infection rate, says PM's aide

Asad Umar warns coming weeks may test country’s healthcare system

​ Our Correspondent April 05, 2020
Planning Minister Asad Umar addresses a news conference in Islamabad— SCREENGRAB.

ISLAMABAD: Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar on Sunday said the lockdown in the country had helped in slowing down the rate of coronavirus infections as the nationwide tally of COVID-19 cases soared past 3,000 and the death toll hit 46.

“The good news is that the lockdown has helped in decreasing the pace of the coronavirus spread. This is encouraging,” the minister, who heads the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) for COVID-19, told reporters.

“However, this does not mean that disease is not spreading,” he added.

“The infections would have spread more rapidly if the lockdown had not been imposed.”

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The minister said the decision of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) on COVID-19 to extend the lockdown till April 14 had helped in stemming the spread of the virus.

“But if the number of coronavirus patients continues to rise then we fear that it might create problems for our health sector,” he warned.

“So far the situation is in control, but the coming weeks can test the country’s healthcare system,” he added.

He said the government was improving the capacity of hospitals and quarantine facilities, preparing ICU beds and providing ventilators to deal with the outbreak.

The minister noted that the lockdown was having a direct economic impact, particularly affecting labourers and vendors.

“If it [lockdown] continues, it will also affect the middle class, which cannot afford it for a long time,” he observed.

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“So the government will have to adopt a strategy for not shutting everything. It will have to keep the closure limited to targeted people and localities.”

Umar said there was a need to identify infected people and make arrangements to prevent them from infecting others. “We are working on developing a network for this purpose.”

The minister said thousands of youths had expressed their interest in the volunteer programme to help reach people in need of assistance.

He also lauded the efforts of medical professionals, security personnel as well as social workers for their hard work and also thanked people for following the lockdown strategy to a great extent.

“Most people are following precautionary measures to save themselves and others from the virus.”

(With input from APP)

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