Imaran Khan (Photo Credit: File Photo)
The Pakistan government has delayed until Tuesday its decision whether to extend the nationwide lockdown or not, as the number of the novel coronavirus cases rose to 5,478 in the country. Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday chaired a meeting of the National Coordination Committee comprising chief ministers of all provinces and leader of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, where he was briefed about the situation in the country in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
Speaking to the media after the meeting, Planning Minister Asad Umar said that the issue of lockdown was discussed and it was decided to have another meeting on Tuesday. The government had enforced a lockdown until April 14 to curb the spread of the virus.
"All provincial chief ministers will attend the meeting and the future course of action regarding the lockdown will be decided tomorrow, he said. He said the decision of reopening the businesses will also be taken in the meeting. The business owners and community will have to bear the responsibility of health of their workers, he said.
Umar also said that it was important to adopt the TTQ strategy - tracing, testing and quarantining. He lauded the people for "behaving responsibly" and said that Pakistan's situation was better than most of the developed countries. Pakistan also announced to extend the closure of the Wagah border for another two weeks from April 16 to 29 due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to a notification isued by the ministry of interior.
Prime Minister's Advisor on Health Dr Zafar Mirza told the media that Pakistan would soon be able to produce N-95 masks locally. He said that already Pakistan was working on producing personal protective equipment. Mirza also said that the ratio of local transmission of virus 52 per cent and more than the imported cases.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Monday directed the removal of Mirza from his post for failing to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak in the country. During a hearing on a suo motu case on the coronavirus crisis in Pakistan, a five-member bench of the apex court led by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed observed that Prime Minister Khan's Cabinet has become ineffective in the fight against the pandemic. The bench questioned the integrity of Mirza in tackling the COVID-19 crisis and the transparency of his work done. The judges expressed serious doubt over the eligibility of the senior doctor as Prime Minister's advisor on health. Expressing dismay over the government's performance to combat coronavirus, the apex court noted that there is a lack of leadership that could maintain unity in the country.
"There is an army of ministers and advisors in place but no work is being done," the Chief Justice said, adding that "corrupt people" have been kept as advisors in the government. "The prime minister's Cabinet has become ineffective...All the provinces are doing whatever they desire," he remarked and directed the government to remove Mirza from his post.
Later the court issued written orders directing the governments of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces and the Gilgit-Baltistan authorities to submit the details of actions taken by them to curb the deadly viral infection. However, the written order made no mention of Mirza's removal. On Monday, the Ministry of National Health Services reported that seven more people died in the last 24 hours, taking the total death toll to 93. It said 1,095 people fully recovered but 44 were in critical condition.
According to the reports, worst-hit Punjab province had 2,656 patients, Sindh 1,452, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa 744, Balochistan 231, Gilgit-Baltistan 224, Islamabad 131 and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir 40 patients. So far 65,114 tests were carried out, including 3,233 during the last 24 hours, according to the official data. At least 20 more doctors were tested COVID-19 positive on Monday in Punjab, bringing the number of the medical staff infected by the deadly virus in Pakistan's most populous province to 50. The Pakistan Medical Association has said that more than 100 doctors, nurses and para medical staff have been infected so far across the country, blaming the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government for not providing them required protective gear.
"The medical staff that is serving on the front line is not being provided with the N-95 masks because of which the lives of doctors, nurses and paramedics are at stake," Pakistan Medical Association President Dr Masoodur Rauf Haraj said. He threatened to go on strike if the government fails to provide the medics personal protective equipment (PPEs). Prime Minister Khan also inaugurated Tele-school education channel. The channel, launched by the state-run Pakistan Television, would run daily 10 hours transmission for students from class 1 to 12. Separately, Khan in a video message appealed to overseas Pakistanis to donate in the special fund to help those badly hit by the crisis. ?No government can fight this Pandemic alone.
We need to work together as one nation. Please step up & help your fellow citizens in this hour of need,? Khan later tweeted. Also, the World Health Organisation (WHO) donated 15 testing machines and 15,000 testing kits to Pakistan.