Pakistan masks
Traffic Police wardens in Islamabad distribute face masks as part of awareness campaign to prevent coronavirus spread. Image Credit: Online

Dubai: Pakistan is grappling to control the outbreak of coronavirus as two COVID-19 patient deaths were reported on Thursday.

With more than 100 new cases reported on Thursday, the total tally has reached 377 infected patients across the country. Most number of 213 cases were reported in Sindh province followed by Punjab, 78, Balochistan, 45,, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 23, Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan 16 and Islamabad two cases. These numbers are based on information available until 4.30pm UAE time.

Two deaths

Both the COVID-19 deaths were reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.The first victim was a 50-year-old from Mardan who had recently returned from Umrah. “The patient had developed fever, cough and breathing difficulty and tested +ve for coronavirus. Contacts are being screened,” Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Health Minister Taimur Khan Jhagra said. The second was a 36-year-old resident of Hangu.

Sindh is worst-hit

As the situation deteriorate in Sindh where shopping malls, restaurants and schools are also close, the provincial government is taking emergency measures to ensure safety of general public. The Singh government has decided to convert Karachi Expo Centre in to 10,000-bed hospital to treat coronavirus patients.

Free food for the poor

The chief minister has also directed the authorities to distribute 2 million grocery bags among needy families. He observed that people seem worried about food availability in view of a partial lockdown in the city. In the first phase, one month’s worth of grocery items will be distributed. The grocery bags will include flour, rice, three kinds of pulses, ghee, sugar, tea bags, dry milk and spices. “We want to send ration bags to the needy at their homes,” Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said during a meeting on Thursday, adding that 2000,000 ration bags would be provided in the first phase.

Emegency in Punjab

Meanwhile, Punjab government on Thursday has imposed state of health emergency in the province after more cases were reported in the province. “The provincial government has established a Rs5 billion fund to fight coronavirus,” Chief Minister Usman Buzdar said. The chief minister also issued orders to shut markets in the province by 10pm.

Transport ban

Punjab also banned inter-provincial transport to and from Sindh which is the worst-hit with most number of coronavirus cases.

Foreign Office advice

Pakistan Foreign Office has advised Pakistani diaspora to avoid non-essential travel and practice social-distancing, according to APP, the official news agency of Pakistan.

The Foreign Office on Thursday advised the Pakistani community abroad to avoid all non-essential travel, stay clear from points of congregation and practice social-distancing in a responsible manner for the safety of their own and of all around.

“We advise our diaspora to exercise caution and personal responsibility for their personal health as well as of those in their family and communities in line with the advisories of local authorities wherever they may be,” Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said in her opening remarks at the weekly media briefing. 

The regular briefing was held without reporters for the first time as part of social-distancing to contain spread of COVID-19. The Spokesperson’s opening statement was shown live through the official television channel, with her response on questions received from reporters through emails. Farooqui said COVID-19 was a rapidly evolving situation while the government and other stakeholders were monitoring, evaluating and coordinating all mechanisms and systems to ensure safety of the citizens.

She mentioned that Ministry of Foreign Affairs had also decided to take precautionary measures against any potential public exposure and had therefore suspended all walk-in Consular Services except the attestation of Power of Attorney.

Attestation of documents can be carried out through courier companies during this period. Walk in Consular Services would remain suspended from 18 March till 3 April, and would be reviewed subsequently, she said.

She mentioned that the Ministry had also established a Crisis Management Unit for coordination on Covid-19 under the supervision of Special Secretary (Administration) to liaise with the diplomatic corps in Pakistan as well as with the missions abroad.

Church services

While mosques remain open, all services at Karachi’s churches suspended with immediate effect.

Archbishop of Karachi, Joseph Coutts, has said that all religious services at churches, and other places of worship, will not be open to the public to curb the spread of coronavirus.

In an official statement released today, Archbishop Coutts said: “It is our duty to cooperate with all the measures the government of Sindh is taking to protect us from the rapid spread of the virus.

“We can use the occasion to teach our faithful that not being able to go to church can be fruitfully used by gathering at home as a family to pray together,” the statement read

Coronavirus in numbers:

Total number of reported cases: 377

Deaths: 2

 Sindh: 213

 Punjab: 78

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 23

Balochistan: 45

Islamabad: 2

 Gilgit-Baltistan: 13

Pakistan Administered Kashmir: 1