ISLAMABAD: The enforcement of smart lockdown has begun to bear fruit as it was revealed on Wednesday that the number of coronavirus cases reduced by 90 per cent in an area of the federal capital which was sealed on March 13.
“Around 100 cases were being reported daily from Sector G-9, but after enforcement of smart lockdown the number of cases has reduced to 8-9 per day. It is nothing but benefit of the lockdown as the movement of people has been minimised,” Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqat told the media.
He said no one was being allowed to unnecessarily go inside or outside the area under lockdown and even movement was being discouraged to reduce the chances of human to human transmission of the deadly virus.
Meanwhile, 5,785 new cases of Covid-19 and 133 deaths were reported across the country over the past 24 hours, taking the national tally of cases to 157,738 and casualties to 3,033.
5,785 Covid-19 cases, 133 deaths reported in 24 hours; certain parts of Karachi to go under lockdown today
Pakistan Medical Association secretary general Dr Qaiser Sajjad, while talking to Dawn, insisted that recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO) should be implemented to minimise the spread of Covid-18.
It is worth mentioning that the WHO has suggested intermittent lockdown [15 days off and 15 days on] to stop the transmission of the virus.
Dr Sajjad said that at least the whole cities should be locked to contain the transmission of the viral disease, otherwise the country night never be able to get rid of it. “Virus cannot be eradicated by enforcement of lockdowns in some areas of the cities as people will find ways to cross the areas and reach the places of work and may violate restrictions for other reasons. If the whole city is locked, people will have no reason to move out of the area under lockdown,” he explained.
He said that some countries like New Zealand had got rid of the virus by imposing lockdown and Pakistan should also focus on it.
“Moreover, heavy fines should be imposed on violators as majority of people either don’t wear masks or they just hang them in the neck or keep them on the chin. Rulers should hold meeting with a one-point agenda — controlling the disease. There should be uniformity in policies of the federal and provincial governments and stance of opposition parties should also be the same,” he suggested.
Dr Sajjad said it was unfortunate that the brand names of medicines were being used in the media as a treatment of the disease due to which these had disappeared from the market. “Even government personalities are using the brand names of medicines, which is condemnable. I suggest that generic name (formula name) should be used to avoid shortage of medicines. Unfortunately, people have started storing the medicines, oxygen cylinders, etc, at their houses unnecessarily due to which disserving patients don’t get the medicines,” he added.
According to a statement issued by the National Command and Operation Centre, more than 9,827 violations of health guidelines/instructions were observed across the country during the last 24 hours due to which over 963 markets/shops and 18 industries were sealed and 1,186 vehicles impounded, besides imposition of fines.
Under the tracing, testing and quarantine (TTQ) strategy, 904 lockdowns were imposed in Punjab, 26 in Sindh, 572 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 29 in Azad Kashmir, 10 in Islamabad and five in Gilgit-Baltistan.
WHO welcomes UK study
The WHO has welcomed the initial clinical trial results from the United Kingdom, which show dexamethasone, a corticosteroid, can be lifesaving for patients who are critically ill with Covid-19. For patients on ventilators, the treatment reduces mortality by about one-third, and for patients requiring only oxygen, mortality was cut by about one-fifth, according to the preliminary findings shared with the WHO.
Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2020
Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and incumbent Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid tested positive for the novel coronavirus on Monday, joining a growing list of politicians who have contracted the disease.
Earlier today, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb confirmed Khaqan had been diagnosed with the virus, adding that he had quarantined himself at home.
Shehbaz Sharif extended well wishes for Abbasi's health, saying that the PML-N's vice president was a "valuable asset of the party". Sharif also expressed concern over the growing number of coronavirus cases in the country.
Later in the day, a statement issued by the Railways ministry confirmed that Rashid had also been infected, adding that the minister was not experiencing any symptoms. The statement said Rashid had gone into self-isolation at home for two weeks, as per recommendations by doctors.
Later, the minister took to Twitter to say he had tested positive for the virus. He maintained that he was not showing any symptoms and was "fine".
President Arif Alvi, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail and Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani called the minister to inquire after his health.
Meanwhile, PML-N leaders Aurangzeb and Tariq Fazal Chaudhry also got tested after Abbasi was diagnosed with the virus, as they had been in contact with the former prime minister.
Chaudhry later announced on Twitter that he had also tested positive for Covid-19.
Abbasi had been out and about last week — he went to the Lahore High Court to attend PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif's bail hearing and also held a press conference alongside other party leaders including Aurangzeb and Ahsan Iqbal.
Multiple politicians, including members of the ruling PTI, have been diagnosed with the virus in Pakistan as the government insists on easing lockdown against doctors' advice. More than 103,000 people have tested positive across the country since the first case emerged on Feb 26.
Prominent political leaders who have contracted the virus so far include National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail and PPP leader Saeed Ghani, all of whom have recovered.
Last week, MQM-P leader Faisal Sabzwari was diagnosed with the virus, along with his parents, wife and daughter. Before that another federal minister, Shehryar Afridi, had also tested positive and gone into isolation.
Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal MPA Abdul Rasheed and Senator Mirza Mohammad Afridi are also among politicians who have tested positive.
Former Balochistan governor Syed Fazal Agha, PTI Punjab MPA Shaheen Raza, Sindh Minister for Human Settlement Ghulam Murtaza Baloch, MNA Munir Khan Orakzai and PTI's Mian Jamshedud Din Kakakhel are among politicians who passed away after contracting the virus.
Pakistan Army on Friday shot down an Indian spying quadcopter in Khanjar sector along the Line of Control (LoC), according to the military’s media affairs wing.
"The quadcopter had intruded 500 meters on Pakistan’s side of the LoC," said Major General Babar Iftikhar, director general of the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), in a tweet, adding that this was the 8th Indian quadcopter to be shot down by Pakistan Army's troops this year.
Last Friday, ISPR said an Indian reconnaissance drone was shot down after it intruded into Azad Kashmir from across LoC.
Officials believe the Indian Army is deliberately escalating tensions at the LoC by sending spy drones and by resorting to unprovoked shelling. This constitutes a breach of the Nov 2003 ceasefire agreement.
Maj Gen Iftikhar on Wednesday had warned that any military adventurism by India will be met with "uncontrollable and unintended consequences", cautioning the neighbouring nation to "not play with fire".
"Many times, their [India's] quadcopters have intruded on our side [of the LoC] and in the past we have downed some of them, and it has been covered in the media."
"Being a military spokesperson, let me say this: Indian aggression aimed towards Pakistan will be responded [to] with full might, there should be no doubt about this. We are ready, we will respond — and we will respond with full might."
Khudian police have arrested a member of the Punjab Highway Patrol (PHP) police, who allegedly sexually harassed and later on Sunday shot dead an 18-year-old boy for allegedly refusing to have a relationship with him in Punjab's Kasur district, officials said on Tuesday.
The victim, who was shot dead near main Khudian bazaar in the limits of Khudian police station, is the son of a local prayer leader, on whose complaint a First Information Report (FIR) of the incident was registered.
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar took notice of the incident and sought a report from the provincial police chief as outrage over the killing grew louder on social media. The chief minister, while condoling with the bereaved family, assured them of justice, according to reports.
The deceased was a Hafiz-e-Quran and a member of the Jamiat Ahle Hadith. The suspect, 30, is an official of the patrolling police who was posted at Noorpur police post at Deepalpur Road.
Both the victim and the suspect were stated to be fast friends and they reportedly had relations in the past, Station House Officer Mohammad Ashraf told Dawn.
The deceased's father stated in the complaint that the suspect stopped his son at the corner of an alley while the latter was walking to a mosque for Fajr prayers on Eid day. The suspect threatened the teenager with his gun and warned that he would kill him if he (the deceased) did not agree to have sexual relations with him, the FIR said.
After the victim turned down the suspect's overture, the police official allegedly opened fire on him, resulting in an injury, according to the FIR, a copy of which is available with Dawn.
The complainant, who was nearby, said he and some other people tried to catch the suspect but he fled the scene while brandishing his weapon.
The injured victim was rushed to the Kasur District Headquarters Hospital where doctors referred him to Lahore General Hospital in critical condition. He later succumbed to his injuries at the Lahore hospital.
Police arrested the suspect soon after the incident and started an investigation into the case from various angles.
Police officials said investigators will also look beyond the details in the FIR to dispense justice and claimed that the incident had nothing to do with any sect or religious element.
An estimated 98 people were said to be on board.
“The aeroplane first hit a mobile tower and crashed over houses,” witness Shakeel Ahmed said near the site, just a few kilometres short of the airport.
Footage from the crash showed plumes of smoke rising from the remains as rescue workers and officials scrambled to get to the victims.
Header image: A firefighter tries to put out fire caused by plane crash in Karachi on May 22. — AP
The Pakistan Meteorological Department on Friday announced that Karachi will experience another heatwave from May 17 to 22.
In a notification, the department apprised the Karachi mayor, governor, secretary aviation division and the media about the development
Chief Meteorologist Sardar Sarfaraz told Dawn that daytime temperatures in the city can rise up to 40 to 42 degrees Celsius.
The alert added that the wind direction will be "generally Northwest/West turning to Southwest during the evening".
The chief meteorologist described this as a mid-level heatwave.
Karachi experienced its first heatwave of 2020 from May 5 to 8.
In 2015, Karachi experienced the deadliest heatwave Pakistan had seen in over 50 years.
Starting June 19 that year, the coastal city witnessed sweltering heat that continued for more than five days and in its wake left over 1,200 people dead and 40,000 suffering from heatstroke and heat exhaustion.
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday announced that the nationwide lockdown will be lifted in phases starting from Saturday (May 9).
The announcement came as Sindh and Punjab both crossed 9,000 cases on Thursday and reported their highest daily death tolls.
Punjab reported 26 deaths, the highest single-day total of any province so far, while Sindh reported 14 deaths. The total number of deaths countrywide have reached 585, registering a 100 per cent increase over the last 10 days.
"We know that we're doing it at a time when our curve is going up [...] but it is not edging up as we were expecting,” said the prime minister in a televised address alongside his aides after a meeting of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) in Islamabad. He warned that the restrictions could be restored anytime if the outbreak worsens.
Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar said six major decisions have been taken by the government:
"Earlier, we had decided to reopen our construction industry. Now we have decided to reopen more sectors related to the industry," Umar stated, as he explained that earlier decision to give permission to bigger markets to reopen will now be expanded to cover smaller markets as well.
Big shopping malls and other spaces which attract big crowds, however, would remain closed for now.
Umar said that the government deliberated opening markets after iftar but ended up deciding that markets should not open at night.
"Markets will open after sehri but they will have to close at 5pm," Umar said.
"Markets will remain closed two days a week. Our police officials need a much-needed respite [from enforcing lockdown measures]."
Umar added that OPDs in hospitals, which were shut during the lockdown, will now reopen in "selected and reserved" hospitals across the country.
Prime Minister Imran said that the decision to lift the lockdown was taken "because our people are suffering", adding that everyone — from labourers, daily wage workers, rickshaw drivers to middle class families — was struggling financially due to the lockdown.
While acknowledging that the government has launched Ehsaas emergency cash programme — the most "expansive and generous" social welfare programme in the country's history — the prime minister noted that due to dwindling revenues, it was not possible for the government to keep its welfare services liquid for "much long".
Prime Minister Imran urged people to take responsibility once the lockdown is lifted, arguing that the success of the next phase depends on people following the standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued by the government.
"When I spoke to German chancellor Angela Merkel recently, she told me that fellow Germans were disciplined and would follow precautions and SOPs. Today, I'm requesting you, my fellow Pakistanis, to become responsible and intelligent citizens so that we can defeat this virus together," Khan said.
The premier added that all the industries that are allowed to reopen will have to follow the SOPs.
He warned that if people failed to follow the guidelines and SOPs, resulting in spike in cases and deaths, the government will be forced to enforce the lockdown again.
Prime Minister Imran also stated that public transport will remain shut over provinces' reservations, even if he personally believed otherwise.
"I believe public transport should be reopened because it is the common man's mode of transport but the provinces have reservations. And I have said from day one that we do not want to take decisions unless there is unanimity," Khan said.
The prime minister also acknowledged the recent spike in new coronavirus cases and deaths in the country. Citing the second "deadlier" outbreak of the 1918 Spanish Flu, he admitted that a second wave of new infections was a realistic possibility once the lockdown measures are lifted. But the prime minister said that "no one can say or predict for certain what will happen", adding that decisions have to be made to stop the suffering of people.
Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood, meanwhile, announced that all schools, universities and other educational institutions will remain closed till July 15.
He said that all board exams have been cancelled. "We will pass or fail students based on their results from the previous year," he announced.
"Students' health and their education cannot be compromised," he added.
The government had earlier announced that all education institutions will remain closed until May 31.
Prime Minister's focal person on Covid-19, Dr Faisal Sultan, said that the the trajectory of the spread of virus was different for each country.
"In the US, it spread like wildfire, where more Americans have now died from this virus than in Vietnam War," he said, adding that Pakistan will have to consider its own context for decision-making purposes.
Like the prime minister, Dr Sultan also acknowledged the sharp spike in new coronavirus cases in the country but reasoned that this was because "we are testing more and more people everyday".
He said that while some hospitals across the country were now running at full capacity, the healthcare system luckily did not collapse as was feared at the start of the outbreak.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Security Dr Moeed Yusuf clarified that not all of the stranded Pakistanis being flown back to the country are testing positive for the coronavirus.
"This is a misconception. Please do not stigmatise those returning to the country," he requested.
He added that the government is in the process of talking to those countries from where 40 to 50 per cent of the returning passengers had tested positive.
Yusuf also stated that the country's air flights to repatriate stranded Pakistan will continue, as per the prime minister's directions, adding that it was not possible for the government to bring back all 120,000 registered at once.
"We can't bring back all at once because we would need to test every Pakistani coming back. We are considering [prime minister's] self-quarantine policy and if provinces agree, then we will be able to bring 13 to 14,000 people per week," Yusuf concluded.