Pakistan health officials
Health officials in protective gear take a sample from a man at a screening and testing facility for COVID-19 in Peshawar, Pakistan, Wednesday, June 3, 2020. Image Credit: AP

Islamabad: Ahead of the annual budget sessions, that take place in June every year, a large number of members of the national and provincial assemblies of Pakistan have tested positive for coronavirus. The federal government is now under pressure to make COVID-19 tests mandatory for all members of the assemblies, instead of the usual physical tests, to ensure passage of the annual financial document.

Sindh is the worst-hit province with more than 12 members of the assembly testing positive for coronavirus so far. The provincial assembly, that was scheduled to meet today for the budget session, is likely to adjourn its session following the death of the provincial minister for Human Settlement, Ghulam Murtaza Baloch, on Tuesday. He was 56.

Baloch was under treatment at a private hospital in Karachi when he tested positive for coronavirus last month. He was put on a ventilator after his condition deteriorated.

KP Assembly’s PTI member dies

Mian Jamshed Uddin Kakakhel, member of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly, passed away after contracting the novel coronavirus. He was 65. Kakakhel was moved to a hospital in Islamabad after he tested positive. The MPA was elected from KP’s constituency No 63 — Nowshera — on a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) ticket in the 2018 general elections. So far, eight members of the KP Assembly have been infected by coronavirus.

In Punjab too, death of a member of the provincial assembly has been reported. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MPA Shaheen Raza passed away last month due to novel coronavirus.

80,463 cases of coronavirus, 1,688 deaths

Meanwhile, Pakistan on Wednesday recorded 80,463 confirmed cases of coronavirus, an increase of 4,065 patients in 24 hours. The number of deaths due to COVID-19 also jumped from 1,621 to 1,688 — an increase of 67 in a day.

This has so far been the biggest single-day increase in the number of confirmed cases of the virus as well as deaths.

Fawad against physical session of parliament

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry has opposed holding a physical session of the National Assembly’s budget session, expressing concern over the rising number of members of parliament falling victim to coronavirus.

The virus has started infecting the country’s lawmakers shortly after the physical session of the parliament, Chaudhry said in statement on Wednesday.

“Within a week [of the last parliament session], coronavirus has claimed the lives of four parliament members, including a provincial minister,” said the federal minister.

Currently, 18 lawmakers are fighting against the virus, Chaudhry said, urging people to exercise caution to stay safe from the infection.

In the past, Speaker of the National Assembly, Asad Qaiser, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail, provincial minister Saeed Ghani and recently federal minister Shehryar Afridi had tested positive for COVID-19.

100 doctors infected in Faisalabad

After more than 90 doctors and paramedics tested positive for the virus at Islamabad’s premier Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), there are now reports of more than 100 doctors contracting the virus at Faisalabad’s three government-run hospitals: Allied, DHQ and General Hospital Ghulam Muhammadabad.

While the PIMS administration has ordered an inquiry into the cause behind such a large number of health workers at the hospital testing positive, doctors in Faisalabad have accused the district administration for having failed to implement the standard operating procedures.