ISLAMABAD / KARACHI / PESHAWAR / LAHORE / QUETTA / 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 4.5 million people in 202 countries and territories of the world – and over 310,000 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.
Nearly one and a half months after imposing the lockdown across the country, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced to ease the lockdown in phases.
The nationwide tally of Covid-19 patients stands at 41,300 with 14,584 cases in Punjab, 16,377 in Sindh, 6,061 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 2,692 in Balochistan, 527 in Gilgit-Baltistan, 947 in Islamabad and 112 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
The virus has claimed at least 896 lives while at least 11,341 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.
12:10am: PPP snubs govt over Covid-19 situation
After PML-N, the PPP has launched a tirade against the PTI saying the government lacked strategy to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The National Assembly (NA) session was called to discuss and formulate a joint strategy on coronavirus but the premier did not come to the House, while Bilawal Bhutto participated in the session and gave best recommendations [on Covid-19],” PPP leader Nafisa Shah said.
Nafisa made these remarks while addressing a press conference along with PPP leaders Rubina Khalid and Palwasha Behram in the federal capital on Sunday.
Read more here
12:07am: Trains likely to start chugging from Wednesday: railways minister
Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has expressed hope that train operations across the country would resume from Wednesday, saying that the move cannot be delayed as people stuck in different cities due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown are desperate to return to their hometowns to celebrate Eid with their families.
Addressing a news conference, the railways minister said the final decision regarding resumption of train operations would be taken after a meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday.
Full story here
10:39pm: Passive immunisation trials to be carried out at NIVCD
Following preliminary reports of the clinical trials of passive immunisation at various hospitals across the province, the National Institute of Cardiovascular Disease (NIVCD) has become one of six institutes chosen to carry out further tests by the Sindh government on Saturday.
An initial report was sent to the Sindh Health Department on Friday, which revealed that ongoing plasma therapy trials, spearheaded by the National Institute of Blood Disease (NIBD), had achieved an 80 per cent success rate in curing Covid-19 patients.
The Sindh government has, so far, permitted six government teaching hospitals in the province to carry out these clinical trials in collaboration with the NIBD. These hospitals include Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Shaheed Benazirabad Peoples University of Medical and Health Sciences for Women, Sukkur Ghulam Muhammad Mahar Medical College and the NICVD.
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10:05pm: Coronavirus rears head at Karachi Central Jail
Despite the efforts made by prison authorities to prevent an outbreak of the novel coronavirus among the inmates of Sindh’s jails, the contagion has made its way to Karachi Central Jail. As many as 40 prisoners and three members of the jail staff have tested positive for Covid-19, it was revealed on Sunday.
Sources at the prison told The Express Tribune that an inmate began displaying symptoms of the infection three days ago. He was immediately tested and diagnosed with the virus, while the prison administration also isolated other inmates housed at the barracks with him, they added.
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9:50pm: One more succumbs to Covid-19 in Balochistan as cases rise to 2,692
The Balochistan Health Department, in its daily situational report, has confirmed one more casualty due to coronavirus in the past 24 hours to bring the provincial death toll to 37.
It also reported 148 new cases of Covid-19 to raise the province’s tally to 2,692.
454 patients have recovered from the disease in the province so far.
8:30pm: Punjab reports seven more deaths, 383 new cases of coronavirus
Punjab’s Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department has reported seven more deaths in the past 24 hours, taking the provincial death toll to 255.
It also reported 383 new coronavirus cases, taking the province’s tally to 14,584.
163,466 tests have been conducted in the province so far, according to health officials.
6:55pm: AJK to impose strict lockdown amid surge in Covid-19 cases
Keeping in view surge in coronavirus cases and failure of masses to follow the precaution, the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) government has decided to impose a strict lockdown in the state by withdrawing the relaxation it earlier announced.
Starting from midnight Monday, the stricter lockdown will remain in place for two weeks, said a notification issued by the state government.
5:30pm: 13 more die of Covid-19 as positive cases jump to 6,061 in K-P
The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Health Department, in its daily situational report, has confirmed 13 more casualties due to coronavirus in the last 24 hours to bring the provincial death toll to 318.
Out of 13 new deaths, eight were reported from Peshawar, two from Swat, and one each in Swabi, Karak and Kohat.
214 new cases of Covid-19 – nine from Intentional flights quarantine center – were also reported, taking the total to 6,061.
84 more patients recuperated from the disease, taking the recoveries tally to 1,783 in the province. Active cases stand at 3,960, according to officials.
214 new cases confirmed (9 from Int'l flights quarantine center) taking total to 6,061. 13 deaths reported (8 Peshawar, 2 Swat, 1 each in Swabi, Karak, Kohat) taking total to 318. 84 new patients recovered taking the tally to 1,783 in KP. Active cases at 3,960. pic.twitter.com/qP20u19kbu
— Health Department KP (@HealthKPGovt) May 17, 2020
4:00pm: NDMA responds to Sindh govt’s claims
Responding to Sindh Information Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah’s accusations that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) did not provide a single ventilator or set up any laboratory for coronavirus patients in the province, the NDMA spokesperson provided a break down of all the medical equipment distributed to Sindh on Sunday.
The spokesperson said the NDMA provides relief to all provinces, including to the regions of Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
Read more here
3:45pm: Hairdressers, salons following SOPs: Ajmal Wazir
Minister for Information Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Ajmal Wazir during a visit found hairdressing shops and salons to be following the standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued by the government.
Addressing a press conference following his visit, the minister said that the lockdown may have been eased in K-P, but there is no way the government would tolerate violations of SOPs.
3:15pm: PM to launch cash relief fund for laid off workers tomorrow
Prime Minister Imran Khan will launch the Corona Cash Emergency Programme tomorrow. The relief fund has been created for those laid off from work during the pandemic.
The laid off workers will be given a stipend of Rs12,000 under the emergency programme.
The prime minister had launched the Ehsas Labour Portal on May 2. The portal is so far said to have received around 3.4 million applications.
2:50pm: Decision to resume railway operations to be made on Tuesday
Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid said the final decision regarding railway operations will be taken on Tuesday.
He said the decision will be made after a meeting with the premier.
The minister said SOPs will be strictly followed and resuming train operations is important to facilitate passengers before Eidul Fitr.
He vowed to return back Rs240 million advance booking to passengers if train operations do not resume.
2:35pm: Pak Army distributes ration bags in G-B
Pakistan Army troops are distributing ration bags to those affected by the pandemic in Gilgit-Baltistan.
According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), over 14,500 ration bags have been distributed amongst families in Gilgit; 5,800 in Ghizer; 191 in Kharang and 8,111 in Skardu.
In addition, 386 ration bags have been distributed amongst families of martyrs and 270 to disabled persons.
2:20pm: Sindh reports 787 new cases
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah reported 787 new cases and nine deaths in the last 24 hours.
He said the province’s tally stands at 16,377 and the death toll at 277.
114 patients are in critical condition and 31 on ventilators, the chief minister added.
2:00pm: Students told to approach concerned boards for queries
Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mehmood said he has received many queries regarding individual cases of students regarding exam promotions.
“At a federal level, we have taken broad policy decisions. For answers to individual questions, students may approach concerned boards,” he wrote.
I am receiving many queries/questions regarding individual cases of students regarding exam promotions. I want to inform everyone that at the Federal level we have taken broad policy decisions. For answers to Individual questions students may approach the concerned Boards
— Shafqat Mahmood (@Shafqat_Mahmood) May 17, 2020
1:40pm: Medical stores, shops to remain open during Eid holidays
The government has announced Eidul Fitr holidays from May 22 to May 27.
Due to the current situation in the country, only medical stores and shops containing essential items will remain open during the Eid holidays.
1:35pm: ‘Ensure implementation of SOPs for malls, transport’
A meeting chaired by Provincial Law Minister Raja Basharat was held in Lahore today to review administrative issues related to Covid-19.
The meeting decided that SOPs will be implemented for shopping malls and inter-district public transport, set to resume tomorrow.
Chief Secretary Punjab Jawad Rafique said if markets were to be found violating SOPs, the entire market will be sealed.
He further maintained that businesses will resume for four days a week, whereas a complete lockdown will be observed during the remaining three.
1:25pm: Govt launches guidelines on the use of PPEs, says Dr Zafar Mirza
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza said after ensuring regular supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) through the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the federal government has relaunched guidelines on the use of PPEs and have started a short training course.
1:15pm: Babar Awan congratulates Asad Qaiser for speedy recovery
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan telephoned the Speaker of the National Assembly Asad Qaiser.
He appreciated Qaiser’s services and congratulated him for his speedy recovery.
They discussed the remaining 53 days of parliamentary proceedings and agreed that the constitutional requirement of the proceedings must be fulfilled in an efficient manner.
1:00pm: Murtaza Wahab says sharp increase in number of patients requiring ICUs
Adviser to Sindh chief minister Murtaza Wahab said there was a sharp increase in the number of patients requiring intensive care units (ICU) as he tweeted out 396 new cases and 11 deaths in the last 24 hours in Sindh
As of now, 92 patients are in the ICU and 31 on ventilators, he added.
During the last 24 hours, 398 #COVID19 patients haved recovered & 11 people have unfortunately passed away in #Sindh. There has been a sharp increase in patients requiring ICU & so far 92 patients are in the ICU & 31 are on the Vent.
— SenatorMurtaza Wahab (@murtazawahab1) May 17, 2020
12:30pm: Pakistani prisoners in Malaysia reach Lahore
The Malaysian airline carrying 250 Pakistani prisoners in Malaysia has landed at Allama Iqbal International Airport.
11:40am: PIA announces fourth flight from the US
The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has announced to operate its fourth flight from the United States.
Officials at the Pakistani Embassy in the US have started registrations for passengers to return home before Eidul Fitr.
The third PIA flight will take off from New Jersey to Lahore later today, carrying 250 passengers. It will reach Allah Iqbal International Airport on Monday.
11:10am: 700,000 youths registered for the ‘Tiger Force’ in Punjab
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Youth Affairs Usman Dar called on Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar to discuss the activities of the Tiger Force.
He said the youth participating in the Tiger Force are dedicated and are setting an example of helping those affected by the pandemic, as per the vision of the premier.
He said 700,000 youths have registered for the force in Punjab and 64,000 have been assigned various responsibilities.
10:55am: At least 250 Pakistani prisoners in Malaysia to return home
At least 250 Pakistani prisoners in Malaysia will be repatriated.
The prisoners will reach Lahore today via Malaysian airlines.
All the prisoners will be screened at the airport and shifted to quarantine centres.
Pakistani High Commissioner to Malaysia Amna Baloch said that the repatriation of all Pakistani prisoners would be arranged through three flights before Eidul Fitr.
10:10am: K-P CM says govt is taking steps to curb virus in tribal districts
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Chief Minister Mahmood Khan said the government is taking pivotal steps to contain the virus in tribal districts.
He said the concerned department has been ordered to utilise the resources needed to help those affected by Covid-19.
9:35pm: Two Rescue 1122 personnel test positive
Two more Rescue 1122 personnel tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
The total number of rescue personnel who have contracted the virus stands at eight.
9:00am: Pakistan’s tally stands at 40,151
Pakistan reported new cases, taking the country’s Covid-19 tally to 40,151.
In the last 24 hours, 1,352 new cases and 39 deaths were reported. The nation’s death toll stands at 873, while at least 11,341 patients have recovered.
14,175 tests were carried out in the last 24 hours.
8:20am: K-P govt to restore public transport tomorrow
The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government has announced the restoration of public transport from tomorrow.
Adviser to the Chief Minister on Information Ajmal Khan Wazir said the provincial government will ensure strict adherence to standard operating procedures (SOPs).
8:00am: Shibli Faraz says complete lockdown not feasible
Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz said the government has implemented a selective lockdown policy to remove pressure from daily-wage earners and labourers.
The minister maintained that a complete lockdown is not feasible for the poor segments of society.
He said the government should ensure the implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) to contain the spread of the virus.
7:00am: ‘SOPs to be followed during Sunday church services’
Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Operations Lahore Rai Babar Saeed said to ensure strict implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) during Sunday church services.
He said worshippers must wear face masks and maintain social distance.