The past week has been tumultuous for Pakistan with the country getting overwhelmed by a sharp spike in coronavirus cases across all provinces. So far, the national tally stands at 246 with 181 cases reported in Sindh, 26 in Punjab, 16 in Baluchistan, 19 in KP, 5 in AJK/GB, and 2 in Islamabad.
A majority of the recent cases were reported among the zaireen who had returned in Sindh and Punjab from the Taftan quarantine that is reported to have been ill-managed. Until yesterday, the official number on the local spread was only 5 with all other confirmed cases having contracted the virus from outside Pakistan. But the new situation points to a spike in domestic transmission as well.
PM Imran Khan in his address to the nation spoke at length about the impact that the outbreak was having on the country and the steps the nation must take together to fight the epidemic. He told the nation that although COVID-19 was highly contagious, 97% of the affected people survive. He also said that a US- or Europe-like national shutdown was not possible in Pakistan as the developing country’s fragile economy could not afford it.
Meanwhile, Sindh ramped up its efforts to fight the pandemic by announcing some severe measures that included imposition of section 144, closure of restaurants and shopping malls, shutdown of public parks and beaches, closure of government offices, suspension of inter-city buses, and closedown of hospital OPDs, among others.
The cricket fans in Pakistan also received the sobering news about the Pakistan Super League (PSL) getting called off hours before the semi-finals on Tuesday after the situation in the country worsened and one of the foreign players developed symptoms of the virus.
Here are the latest updates.
33 Confirmed Cases in Punjab So Far
Chief Minister Punjab has confirmed that there are 33 confirmed coronavirus patients in Punjab.
20 Zaireen quarantined in DG Khan tested positive and have been shifted to hosiptal.
Another 6 patients in Lahore, 5 in Multan and 2 in Gujrat are also under treatment.
I can confirm that there are 33 confirmed #COVID19 patients in Punjab. 20 Zaireen quarantined in DG Khan tested positive & have been shifted to hosiptal. 6 patients in Lahore, 5 in Multan and 2 in Gujrat are also under treatment. Best possible facilities r being provided to them.
— Usman Buzdar (@UsmanAKBuzdar) March 18, 2020
Second Death Reported in KP
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has reported its second fatality of coronavirus.
36 year old was from Hangu and he was being treated at Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar.
Sadly, a second patient in LRH Peshawar, a 36 yr old, from Hangu, has also passed away, from the Corona Virus.
— Taimur Khan Jhagra (@Jhagra) March 18, 2020
KP Reports First Death Due to Coronavirus
A 50 year old from Mardan passed away in the evening today, confirmed KP health minister in a tweet.
Saadat Khan aged, who had returned from KSA on March 9, 2020 was tested positive with COVID19 today at the MMC- Mardan District.
Saadat Khan died at the hospita.
Sad to report one patient who passed away in Mardan.
— Taimur Khan Jhagra (@Jhagra) March 18, 2020
Punjab Establishes Quarantine Centers, 100 Bed Hospital
Punjab Government has announced that a quarantine center with capacity of 3,000 individuals is up in Multan.
Suspected coronavirus cases — with-in area — will be quarantined at the facility.
Additionally, a 100 bedded hospital with 300 staff is also up.
Sukkur Tally Up By 8
Sindh’s coronavirus total just jumped to 189 after 8 more people tested positive for the virus. The new cases are also reported among pilgrims who had returned from Taftan to Sukkur.
The information was released by Meeran Yousuf, media coordinator of the health and population welfare minister.
1st Coronavirus Death Reported in Pakistan
A 90-year-old male coronavirus patient has died in GB. The news was confirmed by the province’s spokesperson.
The deceased man, a Chillas resident, had no travel history but was prone to pneumonia. Not to mention, there’s no other positive case from Challas reported so far.
Read the full story here.
103-year-old Iran Woman Survives Coronavirus
Amid a sea of bad news that’s coming from Iran lately, some good news has emerged where a 103-year-old female coronavirus victim has made a miraculous recovery.
Iran’s state news agency, IRNA, broke the news saying the unnamed woman had been hospitalized in the central city of Semnan for about a week.
The woman was discharged after making a complete recovery, informed Navid Danayi, the head of Semnan University of Medical Sciences.
Here’s How Long the Corovarus Survives in Air and on Different Surfaces
Scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, claim that COVID-19 can remain active in air droplets for hours and on surfaces for days.
Here’s how long COVID-19 can survive in air and on different surfaces:
— AFPgraphics (@AFPgraphics) March 18, 2020
Read the full story here.
Airlift Temporarily Suspends Operations in Pakistan
Bus ride-hailing service, Airlift, has suspended all operations across the country until April 6.
The online ride-hailing service announced this in a notification sent to users. The decision was taken after rising coronavirus cases in the country.
Punjab Suspends All Commercial Activity After 10 pm
The government of Punjab has decided to implement ‘all possible’ preventive measures to control the spread of the novel coronavirus in the province.
This includes limiting the public’s movement in the markets, closure of markets, shopping malls, hotels, and restaurants at 10 pm. No commercial activity will be permitted after ten o’clock.
Read the full story here.
KP Shuts Restaurants, Shops, Among Other Restrictions
In its race to fight the rapid coronavirus spread in the province, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has announced the following measures with immediate effect:
- All restaurants will be closed for dine-in customers – home delivery and takeaway will resume
- Salons and barbershops will be closed for 15 days
- All tourist spots across KP will be vacated and closed
- All official meetings of more than 5 people will be banned
- Offices of ministers, advisers, and special assistants will be closed; only the offices of health minister and information adviser will remain open
- Govt. offices will remain functional between 10 am and 4 pm (Mon – Thu)
- Groceries and pharmacies will remain open 24 hours a day
- Other shops will operate between 10 am and 7 pm
- All private ceremonies in closed compounds and homes will be banned
Iran Reports 147 New Deaths in the Past 24 Hours
In a single biggest jump in coronavirus deaths, Iran has reported 147 new deaths in the past 24 hours. Iran’s death toll from the coronavirus has now climbed to 1,135.
“Unfortunately there were 1,192 cases of infected people in the past 24 hours … please follow the guidelines and stay at home,” Iran’s Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi told TV.
2 New Coronavirus Cases Emerge in KP
KP coronavirus tally has now reached 19 with two new cases emerging in the province.
According to provincial Health Minister Taimur Jhagra, one of the new cases is from Buner while the other from Hangu.
In the spirit of continued transparency; have received news that 3 new cases in Pakhtunkhwa tested positive today – 1 each from Buner, Hangu and Mardan. All 3 being treated according to protocol & are cases of international travel. Our tally now stands at 19
— Taimur Khan Jhagra (@Jhagra) March 18, 2020
600 New Iran-Rertuners Reach Sukkur Quarantine
600 new passengers have just reached Sukkur’s quarantine center from Taftaan, the bordering town near Iran.
These passengers belong to Sindh and will undergo mandatory testing for coronavirus. It is said that samples of all passengers will be taken and sent to Karachi for testing, after which only negative cases will be allowed to go home.
It must be mentioned that around 50% of passengers from Sukkur Quarantaine are testing positive for coronavirus.
Major Parks in Lahore Being Converted to Quarantine Centers
Kala Shah Kaku, Muridke, and Model Town Parks are being converted to quarantine centers. They will also be treated as isolation wards.
District government has already begun the process and commissioner Lahore has been monitoring the progress.
It is yet not clear if outside travelers will be quarantined at these centers or these facilities will be treated as makeshift hospitals in case of a patient surge.
2 New Coronavirus Cases Emerge in Peshawar
2 new patients, both with a travel history, have been tested positive in Peshawar. Both patients are in a stable condition and are being treated at Lady Reading Hospital and Hayatabad Medical Complex in Peshawar.
Authorities said that both the hospitals are equipped with all necessary tools, including ventilators.
With this, coronavirus tally in KP reaches 18.
BREAKING: Major Islamabad Hospitals Shut Down OPDs, Limit Emergency & IPD Services
Shifa International, Nafees, HBS and Rawal Hospital have shut down their OPD services, we have confirmed with sources.
According to details, IPD and Emergency services are also limited at these facilities for now. An official stance for the closures is that measures are taken for the safety of staff and patients.
But according to ProPakistani sources, the closures began after a doctor at Shifa hospital tested positive for the coronavirus. However, ProPakistani could not independently verify the news.
Sindh Hospitals Not Shutting Down: Murtaza Wahab
In a press conference, Sindh government spokesman Murtaza Wahab has clarified that no hospital in the province is shutting down.
Dispelling the rumors, he said the government is trying to regulate the province’s healthcare system. He added that it is imperative for the government to ensure that doctors, nurses, and paramedical staff are not overworked and fatigued.
Sindh Govt. Establishes Rs. 3 Billion Coronavirus Fund
Sindh government has allocated Rs. 3 billion as seed money for coronavirus funds. This fund will be functional starting tomorrow, and a five-member committee (three from the private sector and two from Sindh Govt) will oversee the fund.
Sindh Coronavirus Tally Now at 181: Murtaza Wahab
Adviser to Chief Minister of Sindh on Law, Anti-Corruption Establishment, and Information Murtaza Wahab has revealed that the total coronavirus cases in Sindh have reached to 181.
In Sukkur alone, out of the 290 tests conducted, 143 turned out to be positive. In other parts of the province, 36 patients are being treated at different hospitals while two have recovered and gone home.
So far, 844 tests have been conducted in Sindh at different facilities that include Agha Khan Hospital (506), Indus Hospital (277), and Dow University Ojha Campus (61).
Murtaza Wahab added that Sindh can conduct up to 10,000 tests as kits are now available with the Sindh Government.
Saudi Arabia Suspends Work in Private Sector
Saudi Arabia suspended work in private sectors except health and food services for 15 days, state news agency reported early on Wednesday.
Saudi Arabia has reported 171 cases of coronavirus so far, and has taken measures to limit the spread of the pathogen, including closing mosques for daily prayers and announcing an extraordinary virtual G20 leaders summit next week.
Education Ministry is Considering to Introduce TV Classes
The government is considering taking classes to TV in Pakistan, especially if the school opening is delayed b more than two weeks.
For the purpose, PTV is being consulted to procure 2-3 TV channels where lectures for various classes could be arranged at different time slots.
No Exams till June 1st in Pakistan: Shafqat Mehmood
No exams will take place till June 1st, 2020, across Pakistan, announced the Federal Education Minister Mr. Shafqat Mehmood.
Exams of all boards, national and international (Cambridge), will be delayed till June 1st, the minister announced.
He said that school closure could also be revisited and the opening of school, that’s currently due on April 5th, could be delayed.
Universities will also delay admissions as a result of delayed exam schedule.
Sindh Suspends OPD Services in Govt Hospitals for 15 Days
OPD services in government hospitals will remain suspended for 15 days, announced Sindh Government. Not to mention, emergency services will remain operational during the time as usual.
Officials said the move is aimed to shift focus to fight against coronavirus.
It must be mentioned that long-haul public transport, malls, parks, major markets, cinema centers, and other recreational centers are already shut down across Sindh.
Sindh Govt to Distribute 60,000 Ration Bags
Sindh government has decided to procure 60,000 ration bags — that will be distributed to deserving.
According to details, these bags will be distributed by PDMA on behalf of Sindh Government.
Ration bags will include flour, rice, pulses, dry milk etc.
President Arif Alvi Says Ways to Fight Coronavirus Discussed At Length During His China Visit
President Arif Alvi has informed in a tweet that during his recent visit to China, ways to fight the coronavirus epidemic were discussed at length with the Chinese authorities.
My visit to China on invitation of President Xi Jinping was to show solidarity with China in stressful times, appreciate their outstanding effort to contain Coronavirus & for taking good care of students in Wuhan. How to #iFightCorona War in Pakistan was discussed in great detail https://t.co/n5374FD3Po
— Dr. Arif Alvi (@ArifAlvi) March 18, 2020
Meanwhile, FM Quershi has announced that he will go in self-isolation as he returns after a two-day visit to China.
New Coronavirus Can Persist In Air for Hours and On Surfaces for Days: Study
According to a new study by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, coronavirus can remain viable and infectious in droplets in the air for hours and on surfaces up to days.
The tests show that when the virus is carried by the droplets released when someone coughs or sneezes, it remains viable, or able to still infect people, in aerosols for at least three hours.
No Plan to Put a Curfew On Peshawar: KP Minister
In a recent tweet, KP Minister Taimur Saleem Khan Jhagra has dispelled the rumors surrounding an imminent curfew in Peshawar.
Calling the WhatsApp messages spreading the misinformation ‘highly irresponsible’, Jhagra stressed there was no need for people to hoard stuff.
It is time to now be brave and to rise as a nation. There is no plan to put a curfew on Peshawar tomorrow, and there is no need for people to hoard stuff, as suggested in highly irresponsible WhatsApp messages.#coronavirusinpakistan pic.twitter.com/cejHVddFvB
— Taimur Khan Jhagra (@Jhagra) March 17, 2020
Australia Declares Emergency, Invokes New Powers to Fight Coronavirus
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday declared a “human biosecurity emergency” and said the country’s citizens should abandon all overseas travel because of the coronavirus epidemic.
The formal declaration gives the government the power to close off cities or regions, impose curfews and order people to quarantine, if deemed necessary to contain the spread of the virus.
Nadra Advises Applicants to Use Online Services ‘As Much As Possible’
Nadra Chairman Usman Yousuf Mubeen in a tweet has advised the applicants to use the Authority’s online services as much as possible so the spread of coronavirus can be curtailed.
He also added that the people for whom a physical visit is unavoidable will be screened at the centers.
- All Identity Cards expired or expiring since Sep 2019 will not require renewal till 1st July 2020
- Also, our respected citizens are requested to consider the use of the online service at http://id.nadra.gov.pk for modification cases
1. All Identity Cards expired or expiring since Sep 2019 will not require renewal till 1st July 2020
2. Also, our respected citizens are requested to consider the use of the online service at https://t.co/MqQTpXbvIp for modification cases pic.twitter.com/qSu4IPv5mZ
— Usman Y. Mobin (@uym) March 17, 2020
COAS Directs Army to Help Govt. Fight Coronavirus
The ISPR in a statement has informed that the COAS has directed his commanders to extend full support to the civil administration in tackling coronavirus spread in the country.
“The COAS has directed all commanders to take maximum necessary measures to assist civil administration for safety and well-being of the people of Pakistan,” the ISPR statement said.
The army has also said that all of its medical facilities are equipped and ready to deal with the crisis.
For our coronavirus coverage from March 17, click here.