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 4.9 million people in 202 countries and territories of the world – and over 323,000 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 47,293 with 16,685 cases in Punjab, 18,964 in Sindh, 6,815 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 2,968 in Balochistan, 579 in Gilgit-Baltistan, 1,138 in Islamabad and 144 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
The virus has claimed at least 1,009 lives while at least 13,101 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.
10:20pm: US urges China to waive off Pakistan's debt amid Covid-19 crisis
The United States on Wednesday urged China either to wave off or renegotiate what it called “unsustainable and unfair” debt of Pakistan as it once again raised serious questions about the lack of transparency in the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
“At a time of crisis like Covid-19, it is really incumbent on China to take steps to alleviate the burden that this predatory, unsustainable and unfair lending is going to cause to Pakistan,” said Alice Wells, the outgoing US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia.
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10:00pm: Commuters' spirits pick up as trains start moving
It had been days since the ornate façade of Karachi Cantonment Railway Station had seen much activity during the otherwise last few busy days of Ramazan. Dust had settled over the colonial structure as the melee died down and train services across the country remained suspended amid fears of the life-threatening coronavirus.
And so, the usually bustling train station stood deserted, under a spell of an eerie stillness and calm, cloaked in gloom.
The mood was reflective of the distress of scores of people, who had come to Karachi in search of livelihood and waited the entire year to celebrate Eid with their families in their hometowns.
9:45pm: Sindh gives nod to Eid prayers despite surge in coronavirus cases
The Sindh government has given permission to hold congregational prayers on the holy nights of Shab-e-Qadar, Jummatul Wida, and Eidul Fitr, announced provincial information minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah on Wednesday.
Addressing a press conference on Wednesday alongside Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani and Sindh government spokesperson Murtaza Wahab, Shah explained that the 20-point guidelines for congregational prayers, which were previously announced by the federal government, must be strictly followed during the religious gatherings.
“People should pray for the country so that we can get rid of the coronavirus pandemic soon,” he said.
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9:35ppm: 23 fresh Covid-19 cases raise G-B tally to 579
23 more people have contracted coronavirus in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) to raise the region’s tally to 579.
Eight cases were reported from Hunza, six from Astore, five from Gilgit and four from Ghanche.
402 patients have recovered with four deaths in the region so far. Active cases stand at 173 in the region.
9:20pm: Covid-19 pandemic among other issues discussed at meeting between PM and COAS
Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa called on Prime Minister Imran Khan at the PM Office in Islamabad on Wednesday.
Matters pertaining to internal security, current situation with regards to Covid-19 pandemic, relief efforts and overall regional situation were discussed during the meeting.
Covid-19 pandemic among other issues discussed at meeting between PM Imran and COAS; FM Qureshi, Planning Minister Asad Umar and DG ISI Lt-Gen Faiz Hameed also attend meeting— The Express Tribune (@etribune) May 20, 2020
Live updates: https://t.co/ge8b5cq72I pic.twitter.com/2oxSti1cc9
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Planning Minister Asad Umar and DG ISI Lt Gen Faiz Hameed were also present during the meeting.
9:10pm: 83 new coronavirus cases raise Balochistan tally to 2,968
The Balochistan Health Department, in its daily situational report, has confirmed 83 new cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours to bring the provincial tally to 2,968.
636 patients have recovered from the disease in the province with 38 deaths so far.
8:35pm: Pakistan’s improving economy hit by Covid-19 at worst time, PM tells WEF
Prime Minister Imran Khan, while addressing the World Economic Forum via video link, has said that after painful reforms, Pakistan’s economy was growing but Covid-19 pandemic hit us at a worst time.
“We have a tough year ahead,” he said.
Prime Minister Imran said G-20 countries have come up with a debt relief programme but "more work needs to be done" in order to help developing countries cope with Covid-19 pandemic.
He said debt servicing in developing countries contracts the fiscal space which was needed to equip under resourced health sectors in such countries.
“What the developing world needs is fiscal space so that in these challenging times they can invest on their health sector because healthcare systems all over the world are in direct line of fire of this pandemic," he added.
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8:20pm: Former Balochistan governor Syed Fazal Agha falls prey to Covid-19
Former Balochistan governor and member of the provincial assembly, Syed Fazal Agha has passed away due to coronavirus in Karachi.
Agha, who also served as deputy chairman of Senate, had remained associated with Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) during his long political career.
Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan has expressed deep grief over the sad demise.
7:30pm: K-P reports six more deaths, 261 new cases of Covid-19 in last 24 hours
The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Health Department, in its daily situational report, has confirmed six more deaths due to coronavirus in the past 24 hours to bring the provincial death toll to 351.
Three deaths were reported from Peshawar, and one each in Nowshera, Swat and Dir Lower.
261 new cases of Covid-19 – 70 from Int'l flights quarantine center – were also reported, taking the total to 6,815.
72 more patients recovered from the disease to take the total number of recoveries to 2,130 in the province. Active cases stand at 4,334.
261 new cases confirmed (70 from Int'l flights quarantine center) taking total to 6,815. 6 new deaths were reported (3 Peshawar, 1 each in Nowshera, Swat and Dir Lower) taking the total to 351. 72 new patients recovered taking the tally to 2,130 in KP. Active cases at 4,334 pic.twitter.com/i1Ks3OkN08— Health Department KP (@HealthKPGovt) May 20, 2020
6:06pm: K-P govt issues public awareness message on Covid-19
5:20pm: PM launches Telehealth portal to assist people during Covid-19
The government has initiated Telehealth Helpline to assist people during Covid-19 pandemic. The platform aims at providing healthcare consultancy to the masses by eliminating the need of going to the hospital.
Earlier today, Prime Minister @ImranKhanPTI launched a #COVID19 Telehealth service Portal (https://t.co/xJzdDAccf3) to connect volunteer doctors to Pakistani citizens who may be experiencing symptoms or need guidance from professional healthcare providers.— Prime Minister's Office, Pakistan (@PakPMO) May 20, 2020
Doctors can register themselves at the portal to provide voluntary services whereas patients can receive free of cost consultancy by sending a text message to +92 300 111 1166, according to a statement issued by the PM Office.
4:00pm: Sindh governor to lead Tiger Force in the province
SAPM Usman Dar has said that the federal government has decided to “activate in principle” the Tiger Force in Sindh under the leader ship of the province’s governor, Imran Ismail.
Dar added that Prime Minister Imran Khan has approved the assigning of responsibility of more than 150,000 volunteers in the province to the governor.
3:20pm: K-P health ministers gives a briefing on provincial situation
2:35pm: Ministry of Human Rights releases Covid-19 safety measures book in braille
Minter for Human Right Dr Shireen Mazari on Wednesday tweeted that they had released Our Defeating Covid19 Safety Measures for Persons with Disabilities booklet - centre of the booklet is in braille.
We are distributing it to children and their families registered with our special education. Any group working with PWDs can also contact MOHR,” she said.
Our Defeating Covid19 Safety Measures for Persons with Disabilities booklet - centre of the booklet is in Braille. We are distributing it to children and their families registered with our special education. Any group working with PWDs can also contact MOHR. pic.twitter.com/KVU8akSKxO— Shireen Mazari (@ShireenMazari1) May 20, 2020
2:00pm: TeleSchool App launched
Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training, Shafqat Mahmood has launched TeleSchool App to get feedback from parents and students.
He was speaking at the launching ceremony of the app in Islamabad today.
The minister said the app is aimed at providing a two-way SMS platform to parents and students to respond about TeleSchool initiative, taken to impart education, through distance learning, due to closure of educational institutions as a result of coronavirus outbreak.
Shafqat Mahmood said the app will help prepare a database about people's responses and queries towards the TeleSchool and contribute in improving the initiative in future. He urged parents and students to provide their maximum response to this programme.
The minister said we are working on developing new content and ways to improve distance learning.
1:30pm: 17 deaths reported in Sindh
Setting a new single-day record, as many as 1,017 new Covid-19 cases were reported in Sindh taking the provincial tally to 18, 964.
With 17 new deaths reported across the province the previous day the death toll of the province now stands at 316.
As many as 6,164 tests were conducted on May 19 with 127 people said to be critical and 32 to be on ventilators.
* گذشتہ 24 گھنٹوں میں 6164 نئے ٹیسٹ کیے گئے، وزیراعلیٰ سندھ— CMHouseSindh (@SindhCMHouse) May 20, 2020
* 24 گھنٹوں کے دوران 1017 نئے کیسز سامنے آئے ہیں، جو ابتک کا ریکارڈ ہے، مراد علی شاہ
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1:15pm: Adviser to CM KP on Information Ajmal Wazir briefing media in Peshawar
1:00pm: SC ‘fully cognisant’ of Covid-19 menace in Pakistan
The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that it is “fully cognizant” regarding the menace of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) in Pakistan and also to the fact that the disease has caused a large number of fatalities and a considerable number of people have been infected and their numbers are increasing day-by-day.
The written order further stated that the government did take immediate steps to tackle this virus and mitigate its effects on the people of Pakistan, and in this regard, a colossal amount of money was diverted and used.
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12:30pm: Pakistan reports first death of a lawmaker due to COVID-19
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Punjab Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA) Shaheen Raza passed away after contracting coronavirus at Mayo Hospital Lahore on Wednesday.
She was brought at Mayo Hospital after testing positive of Corona Virus, three days ago and was admitted at the isolation ward of Mayo Hospital and was said to be critical.
She was also suffered from high blood pressure and diabetes.
Condolences started pouring in from all quarters following the news of the demise.
Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed deep grief and sorrow over the demise and prayed for eternal rest in peace for the departed soul.
He expressed condolences to the bereaved family and prayed for their patience.
Information Minister Shibli Faraz has also expressed deep sorrow and grief over the death of Shaheen Raza.
In a tweet, he prayed for eternal peace for the departed soul and patience for the bereaved family.
He said services of Shaheen Raza for PTI are unforgettable.
Read story here
12:00pm: Sindh Governor takes notice of PPE shortage in Chandka Medical College
Governor Sindh Imran Ismail has taken notice of shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for doctors and other paramedical staff in Chandka Medical College Larkana and Liaquat University of Medical & Health Sciences Hyderabad.
The governor issued directives that the Personal Protective Equipment should delivered as soon as possible to these hospitals.
Imran Ismail said that doctors and paramedical staff are the frontline soldiers in the fight against Corona and all out steps would be taken for the provision of PPEs to the doctors and paramedical staff of the province.
11:30am: Balochistan Govt announces package for artists affected due to lockdown
Balochistan government has announced special financial package for the artists affected due to lockdown in the province in the face of COVID-19 pandemic.
The special package would provide assistance to the artists to run the day to day business of their households.
Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan has given the approval of the special package.
There are more than 1,200 artists registered in the province and many others would be registered soon.
10:45am: WATCH: Amnesty International releases video Pakistanis supporting each other in times of crisis
10:30am: Railway services resume across Pakistan
Pakistan Railways resumed limited train operations across Pakistan after over two months of suspension during the lockdown as a measure to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The lockdown caused the railways a loss of Rs10 billion in two months while 10.26 million passengers were affected by the measure, making achieving the annual financial target of Rs58 billion a far-fetched dream.
Awam Express departed from Karachi for Peshawar at 10.
Special arrangements were made at the Peshawar Cantt station to spray disinfectants on the trains and scanners were installed for the passengers.
In an attempt to comply with the government’s SOPs of social distancing only 60% of the trains’ capacity were booked for the passengers.
10:00am: NDMA completes distribution of 5th cache of PPE
National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has completed the distribution of the fifth cache of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) against Covid-19 to all the provinces.
According to NDMA Spokesperson, the fifth cache of PPEs, comprising 3,969 N-95 masks, 4,410 D-95, 68,040 KN-95 masks, was dispatched to Punjab today.
Besides, 93,833 protective gears, 157,500 medical face masks 86,625 pairs of surgical gloves, 12,600 face shields, 6,300 surgical gowns, 5,986 caps, 23,751 shoe covers, 8,820 protective goggles, and 8,825 sanitizers were also sent to various hospitals of Punjab.
It is pertinent to mention that the fifth cache of PPEs has already been dispatched to Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Azad Kashmir.
The spokesperson said that sixth cache of PPEs will be dispatched to all the provinces before Eid.
9:45 am: PM to launch Covid-19 Telehealth Portal today
Prime Minister Imran Khan will launch Covid-19 Telehealth Portal on Wednesday.
The purpose of establishing this platform is to ensure an effective contact between doctors and coronavirus patients keeping them safe from unnecessary meeting in the context of coronavirus situation.
The doctors can voluntarily register themselves with this platform and recommend diagnosis as well as treatment to the patients free of cost.
Similarly, citizens can ask questions about Covid-19 and remain in contact with doctors by telephone.
9:30am: AKUH begins plasma therapy trials
A new clinical trial evaluating the effectiveness and safety of plasma therapy, a form of passive immunisation treatment for Covid-19 patients, is being carried out by Agha Khan University Hospital (AKUH) according to a statement issued on Tuesday.
“Plasma therapy can potentially help treat patients with moderate to severe Covid-19 infections,” said AKUH Pathology and Laboratory Medicine department’s Dr Natasha Ali, who is part of a team of six from the faculty working on the trial. “This trial is part of the university’s [AKUH’s] science-based approach to evaluating novel treatments that can help save lives during this pandemic,” she added.
Read story here
9:00am: Nationwide tally stands at 45,909
After 1,932 new cases were reported in the last 24 hours, Pakistan's Covid-19 tally jumped to 45,909.
The country's death toll stands at 985, while at least 13,101 patients have recovered from the deadly disease.
8:40am: PM Imran to address World Economic Forum today
Prime Minister Imran Khan will address the World Economic Forum today via video link.
The premier will discuss his initiative for global debt relief.
8:10am: Agriculture sector may boost country's economy after Covid-19
Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz said the premier attaches special attention to the agriculture sector as it may boost the country's economy, following the coronavirus crisis.
The cabinet approved a special package for the agriculture sector.
The minister said Rs37 billion subsidy is being given on fertilizers, while Rs8.8 billion has been allocated to reduce the interest rate.
7:30am: World Bank warns Covid-19 may push 60 million into poverty
The World Bank has warned that the pandemic may push over 60 million people into extreme poverty.
World Bank President David Malpass said the bank is financing aid programmes in 100 countries and has committed to spending $160 billion over the next 15 months.
He urged donor countries to step up bilateral aid to poor countries affected by the virus.