Muslim devotees offer Friday prayers at a mosque during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against Covid-19, in Lahore on April 17, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

LIVE: Karachi ‘hotspots’ to be sealed amid rise in local cases; nationwide tally crosses 7,450

Chinese foreign minister promises to support Pakistan in its fight against the virus

​ Our Correspondents April 17, 2020

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 2 million people in 202 countries and territories of the world – more than 130,000 of them have died and counting.

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 7,450 with 3,391 cases in Punjab, 2,217 in Sindh, 1,077 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 351 in Balochistan, 245 in Gilgit-Baltistan, 154 in Islamabad, and 48 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

The virus has claimed 142 lives while at least 1,765 coronavirus patients have recovered.

The number of cases has continued to soar despite the country being under lockdown for the third consecutive week.

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.


1:25am: Sindh govt allows restaurants to resume drive-through, home delivery services

The Sindh government has allowed food restaurants to resume their “Drive-Through” and "Home-Delivery" services.

Provincial home department, in a notification issued on late on Friday, said that restaurants which ensure implementation of the government's standard operating procedures including social distancing measures can resume both the services.

However, it reiterated that dine-in and take-away services will remain suspended.


1:00am: Sindh govt issues guidelines for activities allowed during lockdown

The Sindh Home Department has issued guidelines for the permitted activities during the lockdown imposed to stem the spread of coronavirus in the province.

A notification, issued late on Friday, said that all permitted businesses and workplaces shall be allowed to remain opened as per specific timings mentioned in the order of the Home Department.

“Restaurants shall be opened only for home delivery from 8am to 5pm. However, dinning in and take away of any sort is not allowed,” it added.


12:50am: K-P reports five deaths, 93 new Covid-19 cases in last 24 hours

The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) health department has confirmed that five more people have succumbed to novel coronavirus, bringing the provincial death toll to 50.

According to the situational report shared by the health department, 93 Covid-19 cases were reported during the last 24 hours from across the province.

This brings total number of cases of the deadly virus to 1,077.

216 patients have so far recovered from the mysterious disease.


12:15am: 14 more cases raise Balochistan’s Covid-19 tally to 351

Liaquat Shahwani, spokesperson of Balochistan government, has said that 46 new cases of coronavirus were reported across the province in the last 24 hours.

“Today 46 cases of coronavirus reported in Balochistan and 41 patients are locals #Local #transmission pace is increasing rapidly. It's shocking,” he wrote on his official Twitter handle.

This brings total number of Covid-19 cases to 351 in the province.

The virus has claimed five lives while 142 patients have recovered in Balochistan so far.


11:25pm: Punjab CM shares coronavirus situational report on Twitter


10:27pm: ‘Test all persons arriving from abroad’

Sindh Health and Population Welfare Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho has issued directives, stating that all those returning from abroad were to get tested for the coronavirus.

She said that a health department team would be deployed at the airport to carry out the medical examination of all those arriving from other countries.

“The samples of all 130 passengers who had boarded a flight to Pakistan from Oman were collected on Friday.”

The minister further said that the passengers whose samples were collected would be quarantined until test results were released and the health department would provide assistance for treating infected persons.

According to the health minister, among the passenger who arrived from Oman, those belong to other provinces would be provided transport facilities for returning home.


9:40pm: First Covid-19 patient discharged from Karachi’s Expo Centre health facility

The first coronavirus patient admitted at the makeshift Karachi Expo Center field hospital has been discharged after full recovery from the mysterious disease.

The Covid-19 patient was brought at the 1,150 beded quarantine facility earlier this month and was receiving medical treatment.

The makeshift health facility, which is equipped with all necessary equipment including ventilators, is providing diagnostic, quarantine and treatment services to the virus hit patients.

Volunteers and medics at the facility bid adieu to the patient amid cheers and clapping. The young man can be seen in a video thanking them and showing his gratitude in response.


8:45pm: Balochistan reports 32 Covid-19 cases as tally rises to 335

The Balochistan health department has reported 32 new coronavirus cases to bring the provincial tally to 335.

The virus has claimed five lives while 142 patients have recovered from it in the province so far.


8:05pm: 90 new cases raise Punjab's Covid-19 tally to 3,391

The Punjab health department has confirmed 90 new cases of coronavirus across the province, bringing total number of cases to 3,391.

This includes 701 pilgrims at different isolation centres, 1,352 Tableeghi Jamaat members, 91 inmates and 1,247 ordinary citizens.


7:36pm: Qureshi launches ‘FM Direct’ app for digital connect with all MoFA officers

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Friday launched a mobile application ‘FM Direct’ for a direct digital connection between him and all officers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The foreign minister said the ‘FM Direct’ is a new and evolved way of thinking, encapsulating the spirit of meritocracy and transparency” within the Foreign Office through digital communications.

“The mobile application has been introduced during Covid-19 pandemic as an efficient and swift medium of internal communication, in cognisance of the critical importance of interactive and responsive multi-stakeholder coordination and dialogue,” he said.

Qureshi further said in next step, the ministry would be made paperless and digitised.

Read full story here


7:00pm: ‘Hotspots’ to be sealed in Karachi amid rise in local cases

Amid a sharp rise in the number of local transmission cases of Covid-19 in Karachi, the Sindh government has decided to seal ‘hotpots’ areas of the deadly disease in the city.

In a statement issued on Friday, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said complete closure of coronavirus hotspots is inevitable to contain the spread of contagion.

The chief minister also directed the authorities concerned to step up coronavirus testing and seal the areas which are identified as hotspots.

Read more here


6:00: Govt to issue SOPs for doctors to ascertain cause of 'sudden deaths'

In the wake of media reports regarding a sudden rise in deaths in Karachi, the federal government has decided to issue the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for doctors working in hospital emergencies throughout the country.

Addressing a press conference at the National Coordination and Operation Centre (NCOC) headquarters in Islamabad, Special Assistant to Prime Minister for Health Dr Zafar Mirza said the SOPs would provide guidance to the doctors on when to conduct coronavirus tests.

He, however, said that it was premature to believe that the deaths [in Karachi] were due to Covid-19, urging the media not to speculate during a time of crisis.



5:45pm: Bilawal censures federal govt’s handling of coronavirus crisis

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has come down hard on Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led federal government’s strategy to deal with the coronavirus crisis in the country.

“In the middle of global pandemic, we have not announced major relief packages for our doctors, nurses, frontline fighters or even daily wage earners who have been hardest hit by lockdown. However, Pakistan has announced major relief for construction industry during Covid-19,” he wrote on his official Twitter handle.

“Our value for profit over human life is driving our response to a health crisis. The federal government has its priorities wrong and the whole country could suffer as a result. Support our healthcare system. Support our labourers. Support those who need it most,” he added.

Read full story here


5:27pm: Two more Covid-19 cases take AJK tally to 48

Two more cases of coronavirus have reported in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, taking the toll of the region to 48.

Nine patients have also been recovered in AJK thus far.


4:50pm: Increase in Covid-19 cases due to more tests, says Asad Umar

Federal Minister Asad Umar has said that the increase in coronavirus cases witnessed over the last two days is because the government has increased the number of tests being conducted.


4:35pm: CM Murad offers condolences to families of Pakistanis abroad 


4:15pm: SAPM Firdous Ashiq Awan talks to media

Special Advisor to Prime Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan has said that the government has approved an ordinance which will introduce amendments in tax laws to help lower-income households during the ongoing lockdown.


3:30pm: Pakistanis to return via Torkham

Pakistani nationals stranded in Afghanistan will start returning today via the Torkham border crossing.


3:00pm: SHC rejects petition against limiting number of worshippers in mosques

The Sindh High Court (SHC) rejected a petition against limiting the number of worshippers in mosques during the lockdown.

An application submitted to the court said the government's decision to close mosques is a violation of fundamental rights.

Additional Advocate General Sindh Jawad Dero said mosques have not been closed, instead, numbers of people entering the mosques have been restricted.

line-945-15248325222:30pm: Punjab reports 25 new cases

Health authorities in Punjab reported 25 new coronavirus cases, raising the provincial tally to 3,301.

35 persons succumbed to the virus and at least 630 have recovered.

According to the spokesperson, 701 pilgrims, 1,262 people associated with Raiwind Tableeghi Ijtima, 91 prisoners and 1,247 others tested positive for the virus.

Punjab health department reported that 59 inmates in Lahore, 14 in Sialkot, nine in Dera Ghazi Khan, seven in Gujranwala and two in Bhakkar have tested positive for the virus.

The spokesperson said 457 pilgrims in Multan, 221 pilgrims in DG Khan, and 23 pilgrims in Faisalabad have tested positive.

line-945-15248325222:10pm: 132 Tableeghi Jamaat members, 77 others test positive

In a video message, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said out of the 209 new cases reported, 132 Tableeghi Jamaat members and 77 others tested positive.

line-945-15248325221:50pm: 209 fresh cases reported in Sindh

Adviser to Sindh chief minister Murtaza Wahab said the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Sindh stands at 2,217.

2,372 tests were conducted today and 209 fresh cases were reported, he added.

In the last 24 hours, five patients have recovered from the virus.


line-945-15248325221:35pm: KSE-100 index rises 1,900 points in intra-day trading

Pakistan stock market spiked by over 1,900 points to a one-month high of above 33,000 points as investors exhibit confidence on the measures the domestic and global financial institutions announced to support the contracting economy.

Next Capital Head of Foreign Sales Faizan Munshey said Pakistan equities soared following the surprise move by the central bank to cut the key policy rate by 200 basis points to a 17 month low of 9% on Thursday evening.

The IMF’s approval to provide a rapid facility fund to Pakistan worth $1.4 billion also fuelled the bullish sentiments, he said.

The IMF provides the emergency fund to cope with coronavirus pandemic.

Read more here.

line-945-152483252212:50pm: Hammad Azhar inaugurates PM's Ramazan relief package

Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar inaugurated Prime Minister Imran Khan's Rs2.5 billion Ramazan relief package.

While addressing the media, the minister said, "We have made arrangements and kept a target of Rs30 billion. Pakistan has given Rs50 billion to the utility store. Earlier, subsidies were given on five items, now it is being offered on 19 items."

Azhar said mobile utility stores have also been established and 8,000,000-10,000,000 families will benefit from it.

"We are introducing a law for strict action against the hoarders. A price controlling system is in place," he said.

line-945-152483252212:30pm: Punjab starts random testing 

The Punjab government has announced the start of random testing in the province after increasing daily test capacity to 4,200.

line-945-152483252211:45am: Ehsaas Emergency Cash programme disbursements in Rawalpindi


line-945-152483252211:20am: K-P health minister asks people to 'point out what can be improved'

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Health Minister Taimur Khan Jhagra has asked people to refrain from “belittling” the efforts of the administration and urged people to give constructive criticism.

"These facilities won't be ideal, they are what we have, and we will try our best to run them well," he said referring to quarantine facilities.

He asked people to "point out what can be improved" and to not "belittle the efforts that the district admin and these extraordinary sanitary workers are making".


10:10am: PM Imran saddened to hear about Pakistani deaths abroad

Prime Minister Imran Khan said he is saddened to hear about the loss of countless Pakistanis living abroad who have fallen victim to the virus.

The premier offered his condolences to the families of the deceased. He said many of the victims served on the frontline against the virus.

The prime minister also wished a speedy recovery for those battling the virus and said Pakistan can never forget all those living in different countries, adding that they are playing a critical role in Pakistan's development through remittances and charity work.



line-945-15248325229:35am: China promises to support Pakistan in its fight against the virus

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the situation in Pakistan is in the hearts and minds of the Chinese people. He said China will continue to support Pakistan and help it defeat the deadly disease.


line-945-15248325229:30am: China donates face masks to Pakistan

China Railway-NORINCO Orange Line Project donated medical masks to King Edward Medical University in Lahore.



9:00am: Nationwide tally stands at 7,025 

The National Command and Operations Centre said the nationwide tally stands at 7,025.

11 persons succumbed to the virus in the last 24 hours, raising Pakistan's death toll to 135. At least 1,765 patients have recovered from the virus.

6,264 tests have been conducted in the last 24 hours.


8:50am: Chinese doctors to leave for China today

After a two-week visit to Pakistan, the Chinese delegation of doctors will leave for China today.

During the visit, the eight-member team of medical experts met doctors and government officials in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Rawalpindi. They visited various health centres, quarantine and isolation facilities for Covid-19 patients.

They provided assistance to fight the pandemic and shared their experiences on how they managed to control the contagious virus.

"China provided critical medical supplies including 529,924 N95 masks, 33,744 protective suits, 10,000 testing kits, 1,558,379 medical masks, 36 ventilators, 180 thermometers, 100 thermal scanners, 24,900 gloves, 59,376 goggles, 10,000 litres of sanitisers and 1442kg non woven fabric for making protective suits," a statement by the National Command and Operation Centre said.


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