Pak could not enforce indefinite lockdown: minister

Tuesday 19th May 2020 15:43 EDT

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's close aide said that the government could not enforce an indefinite lockdown due to the absence of any timeline about the end of novel coronavirus crisis, as the number of Covid-19 patients in the country crossed 40,000 with the death toll at 873. Addressing the media after the Cabinet meeting chaired by Khan, Information Minister Shibli Faraz said that the government resources were not enough to sustain the pressure of an indefinite lockdown. "Given the situation, if we can do both - protect our lives and keep businesses running - that would be the best; we don't have any other options," the minister said.

Faraz also expressed concern at the large number of people coming out after lockdown was relaxed but warned that the people should follow guidelines and maintain social distancing. "If people continue getting ill, then it will have a bad effect on our hospital capacity and limitations," he said.

He said that Planning Minister Asad Umar briefed the Cabinet meeting about the Covid-19 crisis and the efforts of the government to deal with the situation after easing of the lockdown. Earlier, Umar chaired the meeting of National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) which discussed the safety of the health workers and the situation after easing of lockdown.

Prime Minister Khan tweeted that the NCOC was also apprised by officials of the health ministry about a plan to launch the campaign 'WE CARE' for the protection of the healthcare workers. The move comes after at least 440 healthcare workers across Pakistan, including 70 nurses, tested Covid-19 positive and eight health workers died.

The Ministry of National Health Services said that out of the total 40,151 cases, Sindh has recorded 15,590, Punjab 14,584, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa 5,847, Balochistan 2,544, Islamabad 947, Gilgit-Baltistan 527 and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir 112. A total of 39 people have died during the last 24 hours, taking the number of fatalities to 873, while another 11,341 people have fully recovered, it said.

Following a spike in coronavirus cases and deaths in the Sindh province and disregard of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) by the people, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah issued a stark warning to traders, shopkeepers and public that they could face a more stringent lockdown in the coming days.

The Sindh government has eased lockdown restrictions last week, allowing some private sector offices, businesses, traders and shopkeepers to resume their work. However, a blatant disregard for the prescribed SOPs by all stakeholders has given rise to concern about increase in Covid-19 cases in the province.

Heavy traffic jams were witnessed at many places in Sindh. One could even see three or four people riding on a motorcycle without any protective gear. No social distancing measures were observed in shops and other public places.

"If the SOPs agreed between the government and traders are not observed, I will have no option but to withdraw the flexibility granted for the resumptions of day to day business activities. People are not understanding the severity of the pandemic...We have to abide by the SOPs, our health system does not have the capacity to sustain the pressure of new cases," Shah said.

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