LIVE: Traders mount pressure to ease lockdown as national tally hits 23,653

The virus has claimed at least 545 lives while around 6,217 patients have recovered across the country


​ Our Correspondents May 06, 2020
A traffic police officer stands with a barrier on a deserted road of a business district during a partial lockdown in Karachi. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

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 3.6 million people in 202 countries and territories of the world – more than 258,000 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 23,653 with 8,693 cases in Punjab, 8,640 in Sindh, 3,499 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 1,659 in Balochistan, 388 in Gilgit-Baltistan, 485 in Islamabad and 76 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

The virus has claimed at least 545 lives while at least 6,217 coronavirus patients have 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.

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1:02am: Two more cases raise G-B’s Covid-19 tally to 388

The Gilgit-Baltistan Health Department has confirmed two more Covid-19 positive cases in the region to bring the tally to 388.

Six more patients recuperated from the coronavirus to make the total number of recoveries to 288 in the region.

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11:57pm: Railways gears up for resumption of train service

The Pakistan Railways on Wednesday cancelled the holidays of all of its employees given in the wake of the coronavirus-induced lockdown in the country and called them in to make the necessary arrangements for resumption of train services from May 10.

According to a notification, “Seven trains will resume operations. The first train – Pakistan Express – will leave the Rawalpindi station for Karachi at 6am. Later during the day, Tezgam, Sir Syed Express and Mehr Express will also leave the station for Karachi. One of them is expected to be seen off by Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.

“Of the three railcars, the first one will leave at 7am, the second in the evening at 6:30pm and the third at 12:30am for Lahore.”

Read more here

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11:24pm: Provinces disagree over date for opening schools amid coronavirus fears

Majority of provinces have opposed reopening of educational institutions in the country from June 1 fearing a drastic increase in coronavirus infections.

During Inter-Provincial Education Ministers Conference (IPEMC) on Wednesday, Punjab, Balochistan and Sindh provinces said the virus could infect children if schools were reopened from the next month.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), however, supported the idea to restore educational activities from June 1 in order to mitigate the students’ educational loss. Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood chaired the IPEMC in which all provincial education ministers participated through video link.

Read more here

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11:18pm: NCOC also gives thumbs up to lockdown relief

The National Command and Control Centre (NCOC) on Covid-19 on Wednesday endorsed the federal cabinet’s intention to ease the coronavirus lockdown and presented a set of recommendations to relax the restrictions.

The participants of an NCOC meeting chaired by Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar suggested restarting inter-provincial transport services with proper standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place, moving on to the second phase of resuming construction sector activities and reopening of retail outlets.

The chief ministers of the four provinces, representatives of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan government and several other key officials participated in the meeting

The NCOC also recommended making selected outpatient departments (OPDs) at hospitals in Islamabad functional again.

Read more here

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10:55pm: Don't fire employees, Sindh minister appeals

Appealing to factory owners not to lay off their workers amid the lockdown and the ensuing financial crunch, Sindh Education and Labour Minister Saeed Ghani urged employers facing difficulties in paying their workers to borrow from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) in order to do so.

Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, Ghani pointed out that the SBP had announced a scheme under which employers could borrow money, while also requesting the bank to provide loans with low or no interest in order to give relief to borrowers.

The minister further disclosed that the Sindh labour department had so far received 73 complaints about violations of the provincial government’s directives for employers, including termination from work non-payment of salaries and forceful resignations.

Read more here

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10:20pm: No new Covid-19 strategy for Ramazan: Ijaz Shah

Interior Minister Ejaz Shah has ruled out any new Covid-19-related code of conduct for the last 10 days of Ramazan.

He observed the ulema agreed that the Eidul Fitr prayers would be offered in open spaces instead of inside mosques.

“Even if one person from a neighbourhood attends the Eidul Fitr prayers, it would be equivalent to the entire locality attending it,” he said.

“It is requested that a minimum number of people sit for Aitekaf in one mosque,” he added.

The interior minister remarked that the rich desired for an extension in the lockdown, while those experiencing hunger and seeking to make ends meet wanted relaxation in it.

Read more here

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10:00pm: Sindh CM orders random testing at grocery, vegetable shops

As Sindh saw the emergence of 451 more coronavirus cases and nine-infection related deaths, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah ordered on Wednesday the initiation of random testing at grocery and vegetable shops, in a bid to estimate the frequency of local transmission of the virus.

“Local transmission is equally increasing in rural and urban areas,” he observed in a video statement issued on the day. The CM related that a villager, who recently visited Hyderabad, was infected in the city and upon return to his village, infected many others.

“We tested 30 people he had come into contact with [in his village] and nine of them were infected,” he said, explaining that to gauge the extent and curb the local transmission of the virus, it was decided to carry out random testing at grocery and vegetable stores, as they were frequented by people.

Read more here

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9:50pm: Balochistan reports one more death, 164 new cases of Covid-19

The Balochistan Health Department, in its daily situational report, has confirmed one more casualty due to coronavirus in the last 24 hours to bring the provincial death toll to 22.

It also reported 164 new cases of Covid-19 to take the province’s tally to 1,659.

209 patients have recovered from the mysterious disease in the province so far.



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9:30pm: Without symptoms, patients doubt diagnosis

Over 8,000 people in Sindh have been attacked by an enemy that is invisible and invincible. Some of them it suffocates to death, while for most, it causes no apparent harm, deceiving them into believing that they are fit and healthy, at no risk themselves nor posing any threat to others.

For them, even positive laboratory test results are not proof enough that they have been infected, making it difficult for health officials to convince them to follow the necessary precautions.

According to health department records, over 82 per cent people who have tested positive for the coronavirus have been home-isolated, “as they have no complaints [and] feel as healthy as a normal person would.”

Showing no symptoms at all, not even a slight fever, “there is no need for them to shift to a hospital or an isolation centre,” a health department official explained, while talking to The Express Tribune.

Read full story here

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8:30pm: K-P reports nine deaths, 213 new Covid-19 cases in past 24 hours

The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Health Department has shared new statistics for coronavirus in the province, according to which nine more people have succumbed to the deadly virus, bringing the death toll to 203.

With 214 new cases of Covid-19, the province’s tally has risen to 3,712.

64 more patients have recuperated in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of recoveries to 939 in the province so far.



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6:45pm: Coronavirus shutdown a boon for migratory birds in Pakistan

The abrupt silence caused by restrictions to stem the spread of coronavirus may have hit economies hard, leaving people jobless, but it has come as a boon for migratory birds, especially in Pakistan.

With hunters and those dealing engaging in the sale of exotic birds have been forced to stay at home, migratory birds are making hay in Pakistan’s warm waters. To avoid a stinging winter of Siberia, every year millions of birds travel large distances to stay in warm Indian waters.

But on their way back from March-April, while overflying and taking rest in Pakistan they become easy targets of hunters and bird traders.

Read full story here

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6:30pm: Faisal Edhi recuperates from Covid-19

Faisal Edhi, the chairman of Edhi Foundation, has recuperated from Covid-19 after testing positive for the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus on April 21.

“From the grace of God my first test have become negative from Covid 19, and I am very thankful to all who prayed for my health. I pray for all of those who are ill of corona and other diseases to get well soon. ‘Corona se darna nahi larna hai’,” he wrote on Twitter.



Faisal, who had also met Prime Minister Imran Khan five days prior to contracting the virus, had gone into in self-quarantine at Edhi Home in Islamabad.

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6:01pm: Sindh govt to pay May salary in advance due to Eid

The government of Sindh has decided to pay pension and salary for the month of May to its employees before Eid-ul-Fitr, falling on May 24 and 25.

“The government of Sindh has been pleased to decide that pay and allowances/full pension for the month of May shall be paid to all Muslim employees and pensioners of provincial government on May 18 instead of June 1,” read a notification issued by the provincial finance department.



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5:30pm: Punjab reports 12 deaths, 560 new cases in past 24 hours

The Punjab Health Department, in its daily situational report, has reported 560 new coronavirus cases taking the provincial tally to 8,693 and 12 more deaths to bring the toll to 156.

3,086 people have recovered from the virus while 25 are in critical condition. 106,927 tests have been conducted in the province so far.



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5:00 pm: Sindh issues advisory for isolation of Covid-19 patients

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4:30 pm: Sindh to resume intra-city transport services

The Sindh government decided on Wednesday to reopen intra-city transport services following the formation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the service's resumption.

The decision was made during a meeting chaired by Federal Minister Asad Umar.

Read story here

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4:15 pm: Sindh's health minister says govt will not force anyone to stay in isolation centres

Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho said the provincial government will not force anyone to stay in isolation centres.

She said, "If you want to keep your relatives at home and look after them there, then you can. Neither the police nor the district administration will come to your homes and force you to stay at an isolation centre," she said.

The province's health minister said many people have refused to be tested out of fear that they will be forced to stay at an isolation centre if they test positive.

line-945-15248325223:15 pm: Sindh reports new cases

Provincial health authorities in Sindh reported 451 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of cases in the province to 8,640.

Authorities added that nine more people succumbed to the virus in the province.

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2:30 pm: Sindh CM special assistant tests positive

Special Assistant to the Sindh chief minister Rashid Rabbani has tested positive for the coronavirus.

line-945-15248325222:10 pm: FM, defence minister discuss Covid-19 developments 

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Minister for Defence Production Zubaida Jalal exchanged views on government strategy and measures to curb the spread of the virus.

Qureshi said the world is heading towards an economic crisis and this is a matter of concern for developing economies like Pakistan.

The ministers appreciated the premier's debt relief initiative and said it is imperative during this time.

line-945-15248325222:05 pm: CM G-B says conditional relaxation of lockdown 

Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) Chief Minister Hafiz Hafeezur Rehman said the lockdown will be relaxed with conditions.

He said in order for the lockdown to be eased, it will be mandatory to wear face masks, gloves and take other precautionary measures.

line-945-15248325221:45 pm: National Coordination Committee to meet tomorrow

Prime Minister Imran Khan has called a meeting of the National Coordination Committee tomorrow to make a final decision about easing the lockdown in the country.

The meeting will be attended by all chief ministers.

The National Command and Operation Centre will also provide its recommendations about the lockdown.

line-945-15248325221:30 pm: 180 passengers from Dubai test positive for Covid-19

180 persons out of 209 passengers travelling from Dubai to Pakistan tested positive for the coronavirus.

The affected persons have been shifted to Fatima Jinnah University quarantine centre.

29 persons tested negative for the virus.

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1:25 pm: Sindh govt establishes isolation facility in Khairpur

Adviser to Sindh chief minister Murtaza Wahab shared pictures of the isolating facility established by the provincial government at the Gambat Institute of Medical Science in Khairpur.

20 ventilators have been reserved for coronavirus patients at the facility, he added.

 

line-945-152483252212:50 pm: NCOC meeting underway

The National Command and Operation Centre meeting is underway with Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah participating via video link.

 

line-945-152483252212:25 pm: PIA to operate four special relief flights from Lahore

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has announced that it will operate four special relief flights from Lahore.

On May 7, a special PIA flight carrying British nationals will depart for London from Lahore.

On May 8, an empty aircraft will depart for Dubai and bring back Pakistani nationals to Lahore.

According to the PIA spokesperson, the aircraft carrying 200 passengers will arrive in Lahore from London.

On May 7, two PIA special flights will depart from Lahore to Dubai, bring back 400 stranded Pakistanis and return to Faisalabad.

line-945-152483252212:00 pm: Punjab CM urges masses to stay home

Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has urged the masses to adopt precautionary measures to keep themselves safe from the coronavirus.

He said people should stay at home and save themselves and others from the deadly disease.

line-945-152483252211:40 am: K-P aims to carry out 5,000 tests per day

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Health Minister Taimur Khan Jhagra said 1,422 tests were conducted on Tuesday, crossing the highest number of tests carried out a day earlier.

The health minister said 2,000 tests per day is the next target, adding that K-P is aiming to carry out 5,000 tests per day.

 

line-945-152483252211:25 am: PM Imran meets Senator Faisal Javed, discusses corona relief fund

Prime Minister Imran Khan met Senator Faisal Javed to discuss the corona relief fund.

Senator Faisal Javed briefed the premier about the positive response by Pakistanis to the fund.

"No matter where Pakistanis are living, they always stand by their countrymen in the hour of need," the prime minister said.

line-945-152483252211:00 am: Pakistan ready to export medical material 

Ambassador of Pakistan to the United States Asad Khan said Pakistan is ready to export medical equipment and material.

 

line-945-15248325229:45 am: K-P to reinstate business activities 

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Chief Minister Mahmood Khan said the provincial government is planning to reinstate several business activities.

He said the government has taken steps to protect the people of K-P.

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9:35 am: Govt to launch campaign to educate masses about SOPs, preventative measures

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza said the government will launch a campaign to educate the masses about the adoption of SOPs and preventative measures to contain the virus.

He said it was fortunate that the number of coronavirus cases and the death toll in Pakistan was much less compared to other countries.

He lauded doctors for their sacrifices and said the federal government is providing paramedical staff with protective equipment.

Mirza added that doctors at PIMS have been provided with a month's worth of medical equipment.

line-945-15248325229:20 am: One more patient succumbs to the virus

A patient at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) hospital succumbed to the virus in Islamabad.

The number of patients who have lost their lives to the virus at PIMS hospital has reached 14.

The deceased was from Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) and was brought to the hospital on April 20.

line-945-15248325228:55 am: NCOC proposes recommendations to ease lockdown

The National Command and Operation Centre has proposed multiple recommendations to ease the lockdown in the country.

The meeting was chaired by the Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Asad Umar.

The recommendations included opening inter-provincial transport with proper implementation of SOPs, opening phase-II of the construction sector, reopening of retail outlets and operationalisation of selective outpatient departments in Islamabad.

The meeting recommended opening shops from 9am to 5pm and then 8pm to 10pm.

It also decided to make no changes in the SOPs of congregations in the second half of the month of Ramazan.

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8:30 am: Five news cases reported in AJK

Five more coronavirus cases have been reported in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

According to local authorities, three cases have been reported from Kotli and one each from Bagh and Muzaffarabad districts. The provincial tally now stands at 76.

line-945-15248325228:15 am: NCC to meet today to decide on easing lockdown

A meeting of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) will be held in Islamabad today to take a decision regarding relaxation in lockdown after Saturday.

All four chief ministers will attend the meeting to deliberate on the next strategy.

Minister for Information Shibli Faraz said relaxation in lockdown will still require people to take precautions. He said the war against corona pandemic can be won only by staying at home.

The minister said the cabinet decided to donate its one month salary to Prime Minister's Relief Fund for COVID-19.

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8:00 am: 40 deaths reported in the past 24 hours

Pakistan recorded its highest number of Covid-19 deaths on Tuesday with 40 deaths being reported from across the country. The death toll now stands at 526.

According to the National Command and Operation Centre, 1,049 cases have been reported on the previous day taking the national tally to 22,550.

With 10,178 tests being conducted on the previous day, a total of 232,582 cases have been conducted across Pakistan.

line-945-15248325227:45 am: NADRA mobilizes registration vans to facilitate Ehsaas beneficiaries

Special Assistant on Poverty Alleviation Sania Nishtar says on special instructions of the Prime Minister Imran Khan, NADRA has mobilized mobile registration vans in the field to facilitate fast-track verification of Ehsaas Emergency Cash beneficiaries.

She said ensuring health and safety, the number of payment counters at Ehsaas Emergency Cash campsites in Lahore and Hafizabad has significantly been increased to avoid crowding of people.



Dr Sania Nishtar said to serve Ehsaas Emergency Cash recipients with utmost dignity in the fasting month of Ramzan, special seating arrangements have been made by district administrations at several Ehsaas payment sites in Kasur, Sargodha, Lahore and Sohbatpur.



She said biometrically enabled Ehsaas digital payment system has been fully deployed countrywide to ensure transparent distribution of Ehsaas Emergency Cash of 12,000 rupees each to more than 12 million families.

She also shared the images of cash counters at different campsites across the country and NADRA mobile registration vans.



line-945-15248325227:30 am: Balochistan to conduct 600 virus tests daily

As Balochistan faces lack of testing kits for coronavirus due to a spike in infections, Chief Minister Jam Kamal ordered an increase in the Covid-19 tests up to 600 per day.

The chief minister directed in a meeting to review coronavirus testing capabilities in which the provincial health secretary and health director-general briefed him on the testing capacity in the province and apprised him of their concerns regarding rapid increase in cases of coronavirus infections.

According to reports, 8,000 samples of the suspected patients awaited results.

Read story here

line-945-15248325227:15 am: 450 mosques served notices for ignoring SOPs in Rawalpindi

The monitoring committee set up to oversee the implementation of 20-point guidelines for worship places in the Rawalpindi division has reported disregard of standard operational procedures (SOPs) by 250 mosques, which it has declared sensitive in terms of security and coronavirus spread.

Over 450 mosques and imambargahs in the Rawalpindi district alone have been served notices by the Rawalpindi police on Tuesday for not implementing the guidelines completely.

Read story here

line-945-15248325227:00 am: K-P mulls reopening businesses

After mounting pressure from trade bodies, the provincial government has said it was considering reopening businesses in the province.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Chief Minister Mahmood Khan said this during a meeting with a delegation of small traders’ association of the provincial capital.

CM Mahmood said the government was considering reopening business under a schedule and subject to the implementation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

The chief minister said the provincial government was devising a strategy in this regard and soon traders will be allowed to reopen businesses.

Read story here

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