Calls for lockdown grow as virus tally reaches 750 in Pakistan

By: Raheel Hanif      Published: 10:45 PM, 21 Mar, 2020
Calls for lockdown grow as virus tally reaches 750 in Pakistan
Pakistani rangers wearing facemasks stand guard next to people washing their hands during an awareness campaign amid concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, in Karachi. AFP

The province of Sindh continued to see epic rise in positive coronavirus patients as on Saturday 143 more cases were reported as calls for complete lockdown grow in the country from all the corners.

With 143 new cases the total of Sindh coronavirus patients reached 396. This sharp rise see Pakistan’s coronavirus patients tally reached 750 with 240 new cases emerged from the whole country in a single day. Punjab saw 41 new cases while Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reported 8 new positive tests for coronavirus and 35 new cases surfaced in Gilgit-Baltistan.

The number of cases in other provinces and regions was: Punjab 137 with 41 new cases, Balochistan 104 with 12 new cases, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 31 with 8 new cases, Gilgit-Baltistan 56 with 35 new cases, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) 11 with one new case and Azad Kashmir one.

However, given the situation, more infections were expected to be reported from some other parts of the country too. Until now, five infected persons – Sindh three and ICT two – have fully recovered from the infection, while the number of deaths stands at three.

Meanwhile, 731 patients are currently undergoing treatment at the hospitals in different cities of the country.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has asked all the citizens to stay home while people in Sindh began observing a three-day voluntary lockdown from Saturday in the province on the call of the provincial government.

Punjab chief minister Usman Buzdar and Balochistan chief minister Jama Kamal join Sindh chief minister Murad Ali Shah’s Friday call to people to completely stay at home and announced closure markets and offices.

Sindh’s Information Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah said in a tweet that the government was considering a complete lockdown including limiting the people movement to stop the spread of the disease.

PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in a series of tweet said that a complete lockdown was necessary as if the cases continued to emerged at this rate, the whole health system would get choked.

“Pakistan must move towards a #lockdown. Every hour, every day that we delay is going to make dealing with the pandemic more difficult. We’re already late, should’ve done it earlier, need decisive action ASAP to mitigate this crisis now.

“No province can handle this alone. We need the full force of the federal government to facilitate a lockdown, increase tests and assistance for those in need. While we hope for the best we must prepare for the worst. At this rate our health system will be overwhelmed. We must learn from the experience of other countries. It’s a question of when not if. Stay at home now until the government makes up its mind. Stay at home to protect yourselves & others.”

Earlier in the day, opposition leader in National Assembly, Shehbaz Sharif, who is returning to Pakistan from London on Sunday, morning also stressed upon the government to go for a complete shutdown on the model of China to save the precious lives.

Senator Murtaza Wahab of PPP also lashed out people who refused to stay at home and demanded to take some tough decisions.

“People are still out on the roads, rickshaw, motorbikes, buses. We are more dangerous than a klashinkov to each other & yet we are out and about. Shameful”

“Time for some tough decisions. CM Sindh has discussed with Governor Sindh, Corps Commander Khi, DG Rangers & IG Sindh to ensure full implementation of Govt’s decision of keeping people at their homes. #SindhGovt will ensure that grocery & medical shops remain open.”

The federal government Saturday has also shut down the international flight operation for two weeks to control the spread of the disease.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has decided to convert the 250-bed Landhi Hospital and the airport hotel into quarantine centres keeping in view the possibility of an increase in patients in the coming days.