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By Uzma Zafar
ISLAMABAD: Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar has said that the existing restrictions put in place to control the spread of Covid-19 will remain for two more weeks until April 14.
He added that every province already has its own restrictions in place but based on the National Coordination Committee meeting, all provinces, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit Baltistan (GB) have uniformly decided to implement these measures from this point forward.
The government has decided to extend the countrywide lockdown till April 14 over fears of the spread of coronavirus, Federal Minister Asad Umar announced Wednesday.
Umar, the federal minister for planning and development, said the decision to maintain coronavirus restrictions in the country for two more weeks was taken in a meeting of the National Coordination Committee.
The minister said that the restrictions have improved the situation in the country. However, he said that there is no need to increase the restrictions because “Pakistan is not a rich country like the UK or Europe”.
The country has gone into a lockdown after a spike in the number of coronavirus cases. Pakistan had placed a ban on incoming and outgoing international passenger flights.
Umar said the government has decided to partially resume flight operations from the Islamabad airport and the first PIA flight will arrive on April 4.
He, however, said the arriving passengers will be screened at the airport and placed in an isolation facility. They will be allowed to leave after they test negative for the virus, the minister added.
Domestic flight operations will remain suspended, Umar said, adding that the government is considering resuming flight operations at the Karachi airport but it depends on the government’s approval. Moeed Yousuf, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special assistant on national security, said PIA will run 11 flights from April 3.
He added that the PIA flights will bring back Pakistani citizens from Malaysia, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan. The novel coronavirus emerged in the central China city of Wuhan towards the end of last year and proliferated to almost the whole world within a couple of months. It’s not the virulence or fatality, but the infectivity of the new virus – also known as SARS-CoV-2 – that has set off a global frenzy. The COVID-19 respiratory illness caused by this mysterious contagion has so far infected more than half a million people in 202 countries and territories of the world – more than 40,000 of them have died and counting.
China appears to have stemmed the tide against the viral outbreak as it has eased lockdown restrictions in Wuhan, the ground-zero of the virus, after two months, but new hotspots have emerged in Europe, Iran and the United States. In Europe, Italy and Spain are bearing the brunt as their death toll combined makes up more than half of the fatalities caused by COVID-19.
Pakistan, despite its close proximity with China, remained coronavirus-free until February 26 when a young man from Karachi tested positive after returning from Iran – one of the worst-hit countries. After a brief hiatus following the first case, COVID-19 cases spiked as more pilgrims returning from Iran tested positive for the virus.
The nationwide tally of COVID-19 patients has crossed 2,100 with 709 cases in Sindh, 708 in Punjab, 158 in Balochistan, 253 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 187 in Gilgit-Baltistan, 58 in Islamabad and nine in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
The virus has so far claimed 28 lives in Pakistan, while over 80 COVID-19 patients have fully recovered.
The situation remains fluid and we’re updating stats as soon as new figures are officially released.