LIVE: PM stresses need for 'smart lockdown' as national Covid-19 tally surpasses 11,000

Published: April 23, 2020
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Prime Minister Imran Khan. SCREENGRAB

Prime Minister Imran Khan. SCREENGRAB

Prime Minister Imran Khan. SCREENGRAB A woman and a girl chat as they maintain safe distance while waiting for their test results at the walk-through screening and testing facility for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Karachi. REUTERS

KARACHI / ISLAMABAD / QUETTA / PESHAWAR / LAHORE / GILGIT / MUZAFFARABAD: 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 2.6 million people in 202 countries and territories of the world – more than 180,000 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 stands at 11,156 with 4,767 cases in Punjab, 3,671  in Sindh, 1,541 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 607 in Balochistan, 300 in Gilgit-Baltistan, 194 in Islamabad and 55 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

The virus has claimed at least 239 lives while at least 2,337 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.

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2:30am: AJK imposes twice a week lockdown

The Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) government has decided to impose lockdown twice a week – Tuesday and Friday – effective from April 25.

Four more cases of Covid-19 surfaced in AJK, taking the total number of positive cases to 55 in the region.

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1:17am: Sindh bans congregational Taraweeh prayers

In the wake of rapid surge in the Covid-19 cases, the Sindh government has banned Taraweeh congregations in mosques during Ramazan, fearing that the novel coronavirus pandemic will massively spread if large gathering are not avoided.

In a late night video message, Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah urged the people to offer Taraweeh prayers at home. “We have taken the decision after consulting doctors and medical experts. I request the Ulema to cooperate with the government.”

The Taraweeh prayers will be offered as usual but only mosque staff will be allowed to participate, he added.

He said that the doctors in Karachi expressed their concerns during a press conference and similar sentiments were shared by the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) Punjab today.

Read full story here

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12:17am: Nine more people succumb to Covid-19 in Punjab

Nine more people died of coronavirus in Punjab, taking the death toll in the province to 65, according to a data shared by Chief Minister Usman Buzdar on his official Twitter handle.

With the addition of 61 new cases, total number of Covid-19 cases jumped to 4,767 in the province, according to the CM’s tweet.

“115 more #COVID19 patients have recovered in Punjab taking total number of recoveries to 905 Alhamdulillah,” he added.

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11:55pm: Coronavirus claims two more lives, infects 88 people in K-P

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa detected 88 new Covid-19 cases, taking the provincial tally to 1,541.

“31 of the new cases were confirmed from our quarantine centres for Torkham and international flight returnees,” a statement issued by the provincial health department said.

With two more coronavirus deaths, the provincial death toll reached to 85, it said, adding that the 41 coronavirus patients have fully recovered today which brings the total number to 455.

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11:33pm: Traders want permission to open shops

The Central Tanzeem-e-Tajiran Pakistan chief on Thursday demanded that the government should end its partial lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic and allow businesses to reopen across the country during Ramazan.

“If the government wants to prevent public gatherings, it should announce a countrywide curfew. This policy of allowing only some sectors to resume their activities while the others remain closed won’t be accepted,” Kashif Chaudhry said at a news conference in the federal capital.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan should take this matter seriously and consult with all stakeholders,” he added.

Read full story here

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10:55pm: 10 more test positive for Covid-19 in G-B

As much as 10 more people were tested Covid-19 positive in Gilgit-Baltistan during the last 24 hours.

Four cases were diagnosed in Nagar, three in Gilgit and three in Astore.

11 people also recovered from the deadly virus in the region.

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10:07pm: Sindh sets up largest lab with 800 per day testing capacity

The Sindh government has established the largest biosafety level -III (BSL-III) laboratory at the Karachi University’s International Centre for Chemical and Biological Science (ICCBS) with a potential testing capacity of 2,400 tests per day.

Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, in a video message released on Thursday, said that ICCBS has been transformed into a Covid-19 testing facility.

“The lab has been provided with trained staff,” he said, adding that the initial capacity is to cater 800 samples per day but within three weeks it would be enhanced to 2,400 tests per day.

Read full story here

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9:24pm: 237 G-B students test negative for Covid-19

The Sindh government has decided to permit 237 students hailing from Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), enrolled at various education institutions in Karachi, to return to their hometowns after they tested negative for Covid-19.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Sindh government spokesman Barrister Murtaza Wahab said that the provincial government had tested 261 students from G-B for coronavirus and 237 of them students had tested negative.

The tests were administered for free at a special camp in Shah Faisal Colony, Korangi. Tests for more students will be carried out in later phases.

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8:58pm: 55 more people contract Covid-19 in Balochistan

Balochistan has reported another 55 cases of coronavrius, bringing the provincial tally to 607, according to the health department’s statement.

As many as 172 Covid-19 patients have fully recovered while 8 lives succumbed to the highly contagious disease as of today, it added.

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6:00pm: Corona lockdown should be imposed considering poor not only elites: PM Imran

Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that decision regarding lockdown in the country should be made considering all segments of society particularly poor and not only for “elites”.

“Our intention is to provide help for the poorest segments of our society; those most affected by the lockdown, for the labourers and daily wagers, for whom provision of even three meals a day has become increasingly difficult,” he said while speaking during the Ehsaas Telethon.

The massive fund-raising programme is organised by the government and private TV channels to raise funds to help the marginalised segment of the society amid economic crisis created by the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.

“We will have to live with the coronavirus and no one can predict when will this pandemic end… therefore we need to move towards a smart lockdown,” he added.

PM Imran cautioned that the month of May is crucial for the country while urging people to take preventive measures and practice social distancing to avoid the worst-case scenario of overwhelming hospitals.

“I fear that the amount of donations might drop If they [opposition leaders] join fundraising drive,” PM Imran sarcastically said while responding to a question.

“If they [Shehbaz Sharif and Asif Zardari] want to do anything they should bring their wealth back into the country,” he added.

There is no politics involved in Ehsas Cash Emergency Programme as most of the donation was given to the people in Sindh, the premier said.

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4:50 pm: Punjab reports 116 new cases

Health authorities in Punjab reporter 116 new coronavirus cases in the province. The total number of cases in Punjab now stands at 4,706.

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4:15 pm: PM Imran’s telethon starts 

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3:50 pm: Sindh health minister accepts demands of Joint Action Committee

Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho met with the Joint Action Committee to hear their charter of demands.

The demands included; personal protective equipment (PPE) must be provided to all healthcare professionals in sufficient quantity, separate hospitals for infectious diseases should be made in each district of Sindh, health insurance for healthcare providers etc.

The health minister accepted the demands and directed the health secretary to issue a notification by May 10.

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line-945-15248325223:30 pm: Punjab announces martyrdom package/life insurance

Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar said the provincial government has announced a martyrdom package/life insurance for those fighting on the frontline against the pandemic.

He said despite the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the global market, the Punjab government continues to provide paramedics with essential medical items.

Buzdar further stated that doctors will be paid double their salaries every month from April.

line-945-15248325222:25 pm: Sindh reports 289 fresh cases

Authorities in Sindh reported 289 new cases in the province, raising the provincial tally to 3,671. The nationwide tally stands at 10,822.

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said four more persons succumbed to the virus as the province’s death toll reached 73.

line-945-15248325221:56 pm: 46pc of Pakistan’s population deprived of water, soap

Pakistan National Human Development Report (NHDR) said 46 per cent of the country’s population does not have access to water and soap at home.

line-945-15248325221:50 pm: Special Assistant to PM on Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar addresses the media in Islamabad

line-945-15248325221:30 pm: 237 test negative in Karachi

Adviser to Sindh chief minister Murtaza Wahab said 237 people from Gilgit-Baltistan tested negative in Karachi and are being sent back home.

line-945-15248325221:10 pm: Testing in wards, streets of Quetta begins

Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal said testing in wards and on the streets of Quetta has started.

line-945-152483252212:45 pm: K-P testing capacity rapidly increasing

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Health Minister Taimur Khan Jhagra said the province’s testing capacity is rapidly increasing, doubling from four days earlier.

He said 91 per cent of tests have been paid by the government and 9 per cent by the private sector.

K-P has conducted a total of 11,963 tests, he added.

line-945-152483252212:25 pm: Khyber deputy commissioner reports 21 new cases

Khyber Deputy Commissioner Mahmood Aslam Wazir reported 21 more coronavirus cases in the district, raising the tally to 86.

line-945-152483252212:20 pm: Punjab CM appreciates teachers, staff of Punjab University

Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar met Vice-Chancellor of Punjab University Dr Niaz Ahmed in Lahore today.

The vice-chancellor handed over a cheque for the chief minister’s coronavirus relief fund from faculty and staff of the university.

CM Buzdar appreciated the selfless spirit of teachers and staff of the university.

line-945-152483252212:10 pm: FM Qureshi says govt is taking necessary steps to ensure return of stranded Pakistanis

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the government is taking necessary steps to repatriate stranded Pakistanis in the Gulf.

He said screening is being done at airports and isolation centres have also been expanded.

Qureshi said the opening of remaining airports allows over 6,000 to 7,000 Pakistanis to return home every week.

Furthermore, the foreign minister said the pandemic will also increase pressure on Pakistan’s economy as it has brought economic activity to a standstill and reduced the country’s exports.

Pakistan’s testing capacity has also increased. Earlier, 3,000 tests were conducted but the testing capacity will reach 20,000 to 30,000 by May.

line-945-152483252211:55 am: Ministry of Interior asks to ensure return of stranded pilgrims, Tablighi Jamaat members

The interior ministry has sent special letters to all chief secretaries of all provinces and chief commissioner Islamabad to direct concerned authorities to ensure the return of stranded pilgrims and Tablighi Ijtima workers.

The letter asked authorities to follow standard operating procedures (SOPs) while ensuring that the Tablighi Jamaat members returned home before Ramazan.

The letter further warned of strict action for any negligence.

line-945-152483252211:10 am: Sindh govt establishes testing laboratory at Karachi University

Adviser to Sindh chief minister Murtaza Wahab said the provincial government has established a coronavirus laboratory at the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Research, Karachi University.

He said it has become functional from today and will be able to conduct at least 800 tests per day.

 

 

line-945-152483252210:20 am: ‘Ehsaas Saylani Langar on Wheels’ distributes food aid 

Special Assistant to PM on Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar said the ‘Ehsaas Saylani Langar on Wheels’ has begun delivering food aid to quarantine centres in Lahore.

 

line-945-15248325229:35 am: PM to participate in telethon today

Prime Minister Imran Khan will participate in a telethon today to collect funds for the Corona Relief Fund, in an attempt to help those affected by the deadly disease. line-945-15248325229:00 am: Number of local transmissions increase

According to the National Command and Operation Centre, the number of local transmissions have risen sharply.

As many as 79% of the cases being reported are of local transmission and only 21% of the patients have a travel history.

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8:45 am: Death toll rises to 224

With 15 deaths reported in the past 24 hours, the COVID-19 death toll across the country reached 224.

The nationwide tally of confirmed cases hit 10,513 with 742 being reported on the previous day.  

line-945-15248325228:30 am: ECC approves package for daily-wagers
The Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet on Wednesday approved the disbursement of Rs75 billion among 6.2 million daily-wage earners.

This amount will be released from PM’s Relief Package of Rs200 billion, according to the finance ministry.

Each deserving person will receive Rs12,000 per person in compensation — 31.4% or Rs5,500 less than the minimum per month wage for a labourer.

Read story here.

line-945-15248325228:15 am: Trade activity to resume in Sindh from the onset of Ramazan

The Sindh Traders Union, All City Traders Union, Electronics Dealers Associations and other traders’ bodies have announced that they will resume business from the onset of Ramazan.

Traders expressed dismay over not being allowed to resume business despite giving the Sindh government assurances that they would abide by all standard operating procedures (SOPs) devised by it.

They complained that the government had committed to framing the SOPs for traders by Wednesday but seeing no development in that regard, the traders said they had decided not to wait any further for the authorities to frame the guidelines. They added that they would now not meet any government delegations and were fixed on resuming businesses from the first of Ramazan.

Read story here.

line-945-15248325228:00 am: Punjab may allow businesses to reopen

The Punjab cabinet may permit the reopening of businesses tagged with necessary precautions.

Punjab Minister for Industries Mian Aslam Iqbal said that soon the provincial government will review the situation and gradually allow businesses to restart operations.

FCCI President Rana Sikandar Azam Khan told the minister that the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector had successfully absorbed the first phase of coronavirus lockdown, however, its extension complicated and multiplied the economic and social problems.

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