Virus tally hits 6,800 as local spread rises to 58%

-1,645 recovered as Punjab, Sindh steadily report new cases
-Opened sectors limping back to working
-Enforcement faces tough public resistance

By Ajmal Khan Yousafzai

ISLAMABAD: The nationwide tally of Covid-19 patients has reached 6,861 with 3,232 cases in Punjab, 2,008 in Sindh, 912 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 291 in Balochistan, 237 in Gilgit-Baltistan, 145 in Islamabad, and 46 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
The virus has claimed 128 lives while at least 1,645 coronavirus patients have recovered. The number of cases has continued to soar despite the country being under lockdown for the third consecutive week.
5,540 tests have been conducted as the overall detection tests stand at 78,979.
In Pakistan, the government has started the implementation of lockdown measures besides reopening construction sector and also eases restrictions in some areas. The Sindh government granted conditional permission to specific industries to resume their operations amid coronavirus lockdown. The industrialists have been handed over standard operating procedures (SOPs) to be strictly followed after opening their factories.
However, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah announced that strict lockdown will continue across the province for another two weeks in order to control the spread of coronavirus cases.
Gilgit Baltistan government has announced to begin phase-II of the COVID-19 lockdown after only 56 active cases of the virus remain in the region.
In a positive development in the fight against coronavirus, the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) reported no COVID-19 case on Wednesday.
Around 58 per cent of Pakistan’s total coronavirus cases are locally transmitted, data released by the National Command and Operation Centre revealed on Thursday. During March, when the pandemic began spreading in the country, Pakistan’s number of imported coronavirus cases a large chunk of which came from Iran was higher than locally transmitted ones.
But the scales began tilting gradually, with imported cases slowing as the government suspended international flights on March 21, and reports of virus patients with no travel history began making the rounds. By April 12, the prime minister’s assistant on health, Dr Zafar Mirza told media that around half of Pakistan’s total positive cases were infected through local transmission.
Latest figures revealed Thursday showed the ratio of local transmissions had shot up to 58 per cent out of a total 6,505 positive cases as of noon.
Furthermore, Coordinator for National Emergency Centre on Polio Dr Rana Safdar told media that the country’s polio surveillance system will be used to trace coronavirus cases, as it is the most effective virus detection system in place in the country.
According to Ministry of National Health Services Spokesperson Sajid Shah, Pakistan conducted 5,540 coronavirus tests on Wednesday. This is the highest number of tests conducted over a 24-hour period in the country. On average, Pakistan conducts 2,500 tests in a day. Shah said Pakistan’s total number of tests stood at 78,979, according to the latest figures available. He further said that as the number of tests conducted rises, so will the number of positive cases.
“In fact, the government’s aim is to conduct 25,000 tests daily by the end of April and predictive modelling shows that in that case 1,000 new cases will be reported daily in the country on average,” he said.
Punjab Health Minister Dr. Yasmeen Rashid on Monday said that total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus has reached 3,259 in the province. Addressing a joint press conference along with Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat in Lahore, Yasmeen Rashid said that so far, 630 patients of COVID-19 have been recovered while 34 died.
She said that 13 patients of the virus were in critical condition in different hospitals, adding that the government was proving best healthcare facilities to the patients to save their lives.
The minister maintained that personal protective equipment was being provided to all the health professionals in the province.
She said that the provincial government will conduct 10,000 tests for COVID-19 at community and UC levels from the next week.
Spokesman of the Sindh government Murtaza Wahab on Thursday said that neither the federal nor the provincial government has allowed barbers, tailors, sanitary and other shops to operate during COVID-19 lockdown.
Giving a clarity of what would remain open during the lockdown in a video message, Murtaza Wahab said that the announcement from Prime Minister Imran Khan gave an impression that the lockdown was over.
“Any impression of easing or completely lifting lockdown in Sindh was baseless and the Chief Minister [Murad Ali Shah] has made it clear yesterday that it will going to be stricter,” he said.
The spokesman said that they have allowed construction and exports industry to operate on the premier’s directives. “The home department has issued the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the sectors allowed to operate during lockdown,” he said.
Murtaza Wahab said that all sectors exempted during the lockdown had to give an undertaking to implement the SOPs and no one would be allowed to operate without it.