Corona’s ferocity grows in Pakistan

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ISLAMABAD: The killing spree of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues in Pakistan, with the official death toll increases to 17. Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr. Zafar Mirza announced this in his routine televised media briefing on the prevailing coronavirus situation in Pakistan.

He said 745 confirmed COVID-19 patients admitted to various hospitals across the country were stable and were showing signs of recovery. “They were in mild to moderate condition and soon they will be discharged from the hospitals,” Mirza said.

He said out of a total of 756 hospitalized patients, only 11 were in critical condition and they were being treated at the isolation rooms, while some of them were on ventilators. He said during the last 24 hours 1,006 suspected cases were registered, while the number of suspected cases was 13,324.

He said out of 1,600 confirmed patients including 593 from Punjab, 502 from Sindh, 192 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 141 from Balochistan, 123 from GB, six from AJK and 43 from the ICT.

One each patient died in Abbottabad and Gilgit-Baltistan, Geo News reported. He said the coronavirus caseload in Pakistan was 1,562 with the addition of 121 new cases during the last 24 hours. He said 28 patients had recovered completely, while 13 had died out of which five fatalities were from Punjab, four from KP, two from Sindh, and one each from Balochistan and GB. However, according to some reports, 17 people had died.

Dr. Mirza said a total of 8,066 people were under treatment at different quarantines in the provinces out of which PCR test of 4,365 people had been conducted with corona positive ratio of 20 percent, as 869 people had COVID positive.

He said there were a total of 1,527 confirmed patients out of which 857 (58%) had travel history of Iran, 191 (13%) had travel history of other countries, while 420 (29%) contracted the COVID-19 through local sources.

He said the government had provided one-month stock of personal protection equipment (PPE) kits to the administrations of ICT, AJK and GB for their health professionals, medical and paramedical staff and doctors.

Dr. Zafar said the government will ensure further supply of all such items to these areas in the coming days while the provinces were in touch with the federal government for the provision of quality PPE kits.

He said the existing ratio of corona cases in Pakistan was very low which was against the speculation. He advised people to avoid unnecessary movement outside the home and adopt all preventive measures including staying at home, avoiding handshake, washing hands for 20 seconds and maintaining social distancing.

Talking to a private news channel, later on, Dr. Zafar thanked China for standing by Pakistan in this difficult time and supplying essential medical supplies and sharing expertise. He appreciated China’s assistance for Pakistani citizens and said the arrival of Chinese doctors was important, as Pakistan was just going to start the training of its healthcare professionals in critical care.

He said Pakistan and China will continue cooperating with each other under the umbrella of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in the health sector too. He expressed hope that the Pakistani health professionals will learn from their Chinese counterparts to stem the tide of coronavirus.

“The world has learned a lot from China about the prevention and control of communicable diseases. Not even a single case came from China. This happened due to coordination and cooperation between the governments of Pakistan and China,” he added.

Dr. Zafar said Pakistan was highly impressed with the way the Chinese government had dealt with the Covid-19 by putting in place appropriate measures at an appropriate time to contain the killer bug.

Meanwhile, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan Sunday said Prime Minister Imran Khan had renewed his pledge to ensure delivery of food to the poor families on their doorstep across the country.

Briefing the media about the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Core Committee meeting chaired by the prime minister, she said the prime minister had trust in the youth force and wanted to use the youth volunteers for the supply of food items to the deserving people.

She said the prime minister will personally announce a comprehensive road map on Monday (today) to ensure uninterrupted food supplies across the country. She said the prime minister informed the committee that the country was passing through a difficult time and there was the need for national unity to overcome the challenge posed by the COVID-19.

Dr. Firdous said Imran Khan urged the party leadership to stand by the people in testing times and play a proactive role in the resolution of their problems. She said owing to the ongoing lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the economy was being affected and the chain of daily use items was slowing down.

She said the prime minister advised Minister for National Food Security Khusro Bakhtiar to ensure the availability of food items, including flour so that there should be no shortage of such items.

She said there was no shortage of edibles in the country and the committee expressed the resolve to treat hoarders and profiteers with an iron hand. Dr. Firdous said Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar informed the meeting that his government had allocated Rs10 billion for provision of Rs4,000 financial assistance per month to 250,000 deserving people in the province through easy-paisa.

Those getting financial support from the BISP would not be included in this list. She said the CM also informed the meeting that eight medical laboratories in the province would conduct coronavirus tests of 3,200 persons daily while the process for recruitment of 10,000 doctors and paramedics had started.

He also informed the meeting that in case any doctor or paramedic died during a performance of duties, he/she would be entitled to the martyrs’ package. One month’s salary as a bonus will be given to doctors and paramedics serving as frontline soldiers against the pandemic in the province.

KP Chief Minister Mehmood Khan informed the meeting that his government had announced an Rs11.40 billion package for providing financial support to 19,00,000 deserving families in the province.

She said the province had overall allocated Rs32 billion to control the spread of the pandemic. The province has also given Rs5 billion relaxation on taxes and duties to various sectors.

The KP government will also provide additional Rs2,000 to each of 100,000 lakh families getting financial support under the Ehsas Programme. Dr. Firdous said the prime minister had also made it clear that the packages announced by the federal government would also be extended to the provinces where the PTI was not in power.

Any relief is given by the federal government to the people of Punjab, KPK and Balochistan would also be given to the people of Sindh, Azad Jammu, and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan as it was a time of national approach, the prime minister was quoted as saying by Dr. Firdous.

She said personal protection equipment had been provided to doctors and paramedics attending coronavirus patients in Islamabad, AJK and GB and the same will be provided to other provinces as soon as possible.

Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan said the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was going to set up five more laboratories across the country other than those being set up by the provincial governments.

Two of these laboratories will be established in Karachi. This will help double the screening capacity of NDMA. Dr. Firdous regretted that the PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif’s criticism of the government initiatives was discouraging doctors, paramedics, volunteers, district administrations and institutions working extensively to contain the pandemic of coronavirus.

“You (Shahbaz Sharif) are worried about your life and making statements through a video link from home. Those brave sons and daughters of the soil, working in the field, have put their lives at risk to serve the ailing masses affected due to coronavirus. Those health officials deserve encouragement and motivation to fight back coronavirus pandemic with a renewed spirit and resolve,” she said.

Shahbaz Sharif should give positive suggestions to further improve their efforts otherwise avoid unnecessary criticism of government’s measures as the people are not in the mood of bearing with such adventures.”

“Shahbaz should set aside his politics at the moment, as the masses have rejected him and he should let the elected government serve the masses in this hard time. We pay tribute to the services of doctors, nurses, paramedics, the armed forces and the media during this war against the coronavirus outbreak,” the SAPM said.

She said the allocation of personal protective equipment (PPEs) for the media personnel was made after consultation with the NDMA. “Those media persons visiting the Intensive Care Units (ICUs), quarantines and making coverage in an emergency will be provided with PPEs and safety kits,” she said.

An application has also been prepared to redress their complaints, which would be launched on Monday and Prime Minister Imran Khan would also launch his youth volunteer plan with a roadmap for overseas Pakistanis to overcome the pandemic.

She said the nation had coped with many serious crises in history and Almighty Allah would help Pakistanis combat the pandemic under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan. “The prime minister will not disappoint the nation in this time of emergency.”

Responding to queries, Firdous said the prime minister had directed that goods transport movement be ensured across the country to reduce the problems of the masses. However, Minister for Communications Murad Saeed during the core committee meeting informed the prime minister that goods transport was halted due to lockdown at the provincial level as goods transport was initiated from the Karachi’s ports and then supplying goods across the country, she said.

“Around 80 percent of such transportation is off the road as no hotels and other facilities are available due to the lockdown. Prime Minister Imran Khan directed coordination between the federal and provincial governments to revive the goods transport,” she added.

She informed that SAPM on Youth Affairs Usman Dar had briefed the committee on the structure of youth volunteer force and positive suggestions were given by the committee. “The committee decided to take elected representatives on board in this portal for effective distribution of relief items. The prime minister wanted to ensure the enlistment of deserving masses through the Citizens Portal, which was not possible in areas with no connectivity.”

She said a parallel system of district governments was set up with DC Office as a focal point and other committees. It was based on the data developed by district governments through geomapping and business communities. The most deserving would be provided food supplies through youngsters.

“This portal will also help in monitoring hoarding and profiteering in the respective districts. Youth volunteers will also be registered through DC Offices, where no Internet is available and they could also help in managing patients from rural areas to urban localities by ensuring ambulances.”

She said the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) would be made an active regulator based on the best global practices and keeping in view the need for the skilled workforce the strength of doctors and the medical workforce would be beefed up.

Dr. Firdous said the opposition parties were ruling in Gilgit Baltistan, Azad Jammu, and Kashmir and Sindh and the prime minister did not discriminate among any in the National Coordination Committee on a political basis.

She said the National Coordination Committee was the best forum where all stakeholders, including the civil and military leadership, were making decisions based on mutual consensus.

“If the opposition parties want to become part of any committee or endeavor and to distribute food, then it is a welfare service for the masses.

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