Coming weeks crucial in virus fight: Asad

-Says health system likely to be overstretched
-Hard to predict about lockdown before 14th

By Ajmal Khan Yousafzai

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar said on Sunday that the coming weeks can test Pakistan as coronavirus cases in the country crossed 3,000.Umar was briefing the media about the coronavirus situation in Pakistan at the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) where he thanked the public for adhering to the government’s safety precautions.
The minister credited the government’s measures of banning public gatherings for bringing down the rate of the virus spreading but warned that it does not mean the toll may not rise further.”Had the steps [closures] not been taken, the disease would have spread at a much faster rate,” he said.
However, the minister expressed the government’s concerns that the coming weeks can be difficult for the country’s health system. “The rate at which the infection is spreading, we are seeing that the limits of our health system will be tested in coming days,” he said, adding that the difference between the facilities, hospitals and quarantine zones being set up by the government and the spread of the coronavirus will diminish in the coming weeks.
Umar said that the bans that the lockdown measures were not only hurting the poor but the affluent as well. He said that keeping this in mind, the government was working to formulate a strategy based on which an affected person or area is identified and that individual or place is quarantined so that it does not affect others.
He said that Pakistan’s testing capacity was limited when the first cases were reported in the country but with each passing day, it was increasing. Umar said that Pakistan was taking special measures to protect the health professionals who were battling the coronavirus on the front lines.
The minister said that he could not predict whether the bans in place will increase or decrease after April 14. “Today, I cannot tell you whether the bans will increase or not from April 15,” he said. “Those decisions will be taken this week.”
He paid tribute to the doctors, nurses, armed forces personnel, NGOs and the people for coming to each other’s aid in these testing times. “Insha’Allah, we will make it out of this difficult time,” he concluded.Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar said he cannot make any prediction regarding the end or continuation of the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown across the country, media reported on Sunday.
Asad Umar, while addressing a press conference in Islamabad today, said that no predictions could be made regarding the restrictions amid COVID-19 crisis would be lifted after April 14 or not. He added that the decision regarding the lockdown will be taken this week by the federal government.
“Pakistani nation is exhibiting discipline [amid lockdown to contain coronavirus pandemic] excluding people from some areas avoiding to adopt precautionary measures. We are getting achievements in stopping the spread of the virus.”
“I’m not saying that coronavirus has not spread but its pace is slowed down after imposing restrictions in cities. The virus spread can be ended through social distancing and safety measures.”
The minister admitted that the national economy was facing impacts of lockdown. “Our capability to conduct coronavirus tests was lesser as compared to the other countries, however, Pakistan has overcome the issue after increasing its capacity and mechanisms for the functionalisation of hospitals to cope with the current situation,” said Umar.
“We have to protect our doctors and paramedical staff as they are our heroes. The government is also increasing the number of ventilators across the country. We are trying our best for not to lose control over the health-related issues.
Highlighting the miseries of weaker sections of the society, Umar said the government is well-aware about their difficulties. He paid tribute to the social workers for serving the nationals in a difficult time.