Don't panic, just be careful, PM tells nation amid coronavirus outbreak

Lockdown can be more fatal for poor people than coronavirus, says Imran Khan

Published: 10:00 PM, 17 Mar, 2020
Don't panic, just be careful, PM tells nation amid coronavirus outbreak
Caption: Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses the nation.
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Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday that coronavirus would spread in Pakistan like it did in many other countries, but people must not panic because 97 percent of patients would have just minor symptoms and recover within a few days on their own.

In his brief address to the nation on Tuesday evening, the prime minister urged people to take the following measures to stop coronavirus spread: avoid large public gatherings, stop handshakes, wash hands frequently and isolate yourself on your own if you have returned home from abroad.

He said he feared that the increasing number of coronavirus patients in the country might create panic in the country therefore he decided to address the nation. He said the government had been working since January 15 to fight coronavirus after the disease broke out in China. He said studies showed that 97 percent of coronavirus patients just have mild symptoms and only three percent of the patients are at the risk of facing acute health conditions. He said the most dangerous thing about coronavirus is that it spreads very fast.

The prime minister said that Pakistan had been in touch with China and Iran over the situation. He said that people quarantined at Taftan border were sent to their respective provinces because it was quite difficult for the authorities to provide them logistics and medical supplies in the remote border region. He congratulated the Balochistan government for putting up a brave fight against coronavirus over the last few weeks. He said that 900,000 people have been screened for coronavirus in Pakistan so far.

Khan said the first coronavirus case in Pakistan was reported on February 26 and the government had been on high alert since then. He said the government convened a meeting of the National Security Committee last week to develop a strategy to fight coronavirus after the number of cases shot up abruptly last week.

The prime minister said that different countries dealt with the virus differently. He however said the government could not lockdown the country since it has a big number of poor people. He said that 25 percent of the Pakistani population was living in extreme poverty and a lockdown could prove more fatal for them than coronavirus. This is the reason the government just banned public gatherings instead of locking down the country, he said.

Khan said the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) had been given the task to tackle the coronavirus outbreak. He said the government had placed an order for ventilators in anticipation of an increase in the number of patients in the coming days. He said that a core committee of health experts was watching the situation closely. He said that President Arif Ali was currently on a China visit and he would bring home the lessons learnt by the Chinese government in its fight against coronavirus.

The prime minister said that an economic committee had been formed to keep an eye on the economic situation. He said that emergence of coronavirus would affect exports and businesses. He said the economic committee would find out the most affected sectors and recommend relief package for them. He said the committee would also keep an eye on prices of daily use items. He warned hoarders of strict action amid the ongoing fight against coronavirus. He said he had told the authorities to extend every help to overseas Pakistanis stuck in some of the most affected countries.

Maqbool Ahmad

The writer is a seasoned journalist.