Govt steps up testing for ‘smart lockdown’

SAPM says govt to bring back 6,000 citizens stranded in different countries this week


​ Our Correspondent April 19, 2020
Chairing NCOC meeting, the federal minister terms preventive measures effective way to curb virus. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE

ISLAMABAD: The government is increasing its coronavirus (Covid-19) testing capacity to identify the pandemic’s hotspots in the country so that it could move towards enforcing a “smart lockdown” to stop the disease from spreading any further.

“With an enhanced testing capacity, the government will be able to trace and test asymptomatic people who have come into contact with coronavirus patients,” Special Assistant to the PM on National Security Dr Moeed Yusuf said while addressing a news conference on Sunday.

“This will help us identify virus hotpots in the country and then only those areas will be sealed off allowing the government to move towards a smart lockdown,” he added.

The PM’s aide further said the government planned to bring back 6,000 Pakistanis stranded in different countries in the coming week.

He added that the government would grant permission to private airlines to bring back Pakistanis from countries where the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) did not operate.

Yusuf elaborated that initially permission would be granted for two flights and then the number would gradually be increased.

“The government is working on bringing back citizens from Turkey and Qatar. We will bring back all Pakistanis soon,” he added.

On the Pakistanis stranded in Afghanistan, the SAPM said the Torkham border crossing had been opened on Saturday and around 1,000 people would be allowed to return to Pakistan every week.

The Chaman border crossing would also be opened in the coming week, he added.

Earlier, while chairing a meeting of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Covid-19, Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar highlighted the need to gather feedback on locally manufactured samples of N-95 masks.

Umar, who heads the NCOC, said there was a need to analyse the capacity of the locally made N-95 masks and mull scaling up their production.

He said public awareness campaigns on Covid-19 safety guidelines and precautionary measures were the only best possible tools to flatten the coronavirus curve.

The minister suggested forming an inter-ministerial group of relevant ministries, particularly the industries ministry to deal with the crisis.

He also stressed the need for finding the existing gaps in the guidelines and improving the policy after thorough discussion with the health ministry.

Umar sought a briefing from the National Disaster Management Authority chairman on the number of imported medical equipment and the strategy adopted for its disbursement.

He directed the information and broadcasting ministry, the health ministry and the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) to coordinate and devise a guideline for reshaping the existing public perception about quarantine facilities before Ramazan.

The NCOC meeting was attended by Interior Minister Ijaz Shah, Energy Minister Omar Ayub, Industries Minister Hammad Azhar, Food Security Minister Fakhar Imam, Economic Affairs Minister Khusro Bakhtiar, Dr Moeed Yusuf, Focal Person to the PM on Covid-19 Dr Faisal Sultan and NCOC chief coordinator Lt Gen Hamooduz Zaman.

Sindh records highest deaths in a day

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has said that eight patients of coronavirus lost their lives on Sunday, which is the highest toll in a day so far.

According to a statement issued by the CM House, the chief minister, in a video message, said, "The first patient had died on March 19 and after that the highest number of deaths of six patients was reported on April 11 and on Sunday it has claimed eight more lives, which is quite saddening and painful."

Murad said the total death toll of a month from March 19 to April 19 has reached 56, which is 2.1 per cent of the total patients. “The deaths of 56 patients in a month is quite worrisome as it shows that the coronavirus is claiming more than one life every day.”

He urged the people to adopt precautionary measures.

“During the last 24 hours, 1,520 tests have been conducted, out of which, 182 have been diagnosed as positive and the number of tests conducted so far in Sindh is 24,458.”

It may be noted that on Saturday 138 positive cases came out of 1,666 tests and the positive cases increased to another 182 when 1,520 more tests were conducted. "The positives keep on increasing when more samples are tested," the chief minister said.

On patients under treatment, Murad said that 1,066 were in isolation at homes, 492 at isolation centers and 299 were in different hospitals.

“The total number of patients under treatment is 1,857,” he said, adding that 33 patients had recovered and left for their home and the patients recovered so far were 625, which was 25 per cent of the total patients.

Giving details of the Tableeghi Jamaat people, the Sindh CM said that out of 4,724 people, 4,346 were tested and of them, 494 came positive.

Three evangelists recovered and returned to their home, he added.

The chief minister said that the first flight from Oman brought 176 Pakistanis and they all were tested. "With the grace of God, 170 of the Oman-based Pakistanis tested negative while the result of six others is awaited.”

He added that men passengers had been kept at Labour Colony, while the women were housed in Ramada Hotel at the airport.

“Very soon I will relax the lockdown, but it will not be the same life as it was on January 1. We all have to adopt the new health-oriented precautionary measures in our lives and these precautions would continue till the vaccine for Covid-19 is discovered," he added.

He said that the coronavirus had brought an emergency all over the world and all the nations were fighting it by adopting the precautionary measures suggested by the experts.

"We are a Muslim nation believing in hygiene and purity, therefore, time has come to practice these principles of Islam," he said.

The chief minister in his concluding remarks urged the people to keep social distancing even from their family members. "When any one returns to his/her home, he/she must wash their hands and change clothes and preferably take shower to keep his/her family members safe and secure from the virus," he said.

With input from APP

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