Decision to relax lockdown after May 9: Minister

Asad Umar says coronavirus death rate in Pakistan is much lower than other countries

By: News Desk      Published: 05:47 PM, 3 May, 2020
Decision to relax lockdown after May 9: Minister

Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar on Sunday said the coronavirus death rate in Pakistan is much lower than other countries and that a decision to relax the lockdown will be taken in consensus with all the provinces after May 9.

In a related move, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) also on Sunday released a number of charts and diagrams to translate the prevailing situation in Pakistan and what steps country take if it wants to go soft on its lockdown.

Addressing a news conference at NCOC offices in Islamabad, Asad Umar said the government will decide its post-May 9 strategies after a meeting of the National Coordination Committee.

The federal minister said the decision to ease the lockdown will be taken in such a manner that it does not paralyse the country’s healthcare system. “Restrictions in the country will be eased gradually in order to provide livelihood to the people,” he added.

He said “We have significantly enhanced the capacity of our healthcare system. We currently have 1,400 ventilators for coronavirus patients and 900 more will be added in two months. At present, there are 35 coronavirus patients on ventilators.”

Umar added that the country now had the capacity to develop medical equipment and soon the domestic production of ventilators would start. “The country has 55 functional labs and we have the capacity to carry out over 14,000 coronavirus tests daily,” he said, adding that the testing, tracking and quarantine system had been made functional.

Speaking about the spike in the country’s death toll over the last few days, Umar said that at the beginning of the pandemic, the country was registering a death or two daily whereas now that had significantly gone up. “There has been an average of 24 deaths in the country over the last six days,” he noted.

“This is not good news and it goes to show how important it is to practise precaution,” Umar remarked.

He continued, “This number is likely to increase in May but will not get out of hand. The government has been increasing its testing capacity. Today our testing capacity is significantly better than what it was two months ago. Right now we have the capacity to perform 20,000 tests each day.”

The minister once again reiterated that the pandemic situation was not as fatal as it was in Europe and the United States. “The fatality rate in Pakistan is far less compared to the United States, the UK and Spain,” he said, stressing that the citizens needed to adopt precautionary measures in order to stem the spread of the virus.

He added that the economic impact of the lockdown was far more serious on Pakistan’s economy than the western countries. “In Europe, there have been thousands of deaths and even those countries are now easing restrictions carefully because even those countries know they cannot shut down everything forever,” he added.