Coronavirus: Pak PM rules out complete lockdown even as cases climb to 757

Sajjad Hussain

Islamabad, Mar 22 (PTI) Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday ruled out a complete nationwide lockdown, saying it will create chaos and urged people to self-quarantine to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic which has so far claimed four lives and infected over 750 people in the country.

Addressing the nation as cases of the novel coronavirus surged across the country, Khan reiterated that a lockdown will create chaos as more than 25 per cent people were living below poverty line and their lives will be shattered.

He said the situation in Pakistan does not call for a lockdown yet.

'Let me first tell you what a complete lockdown is. It means imposing a curfew and locking people in their homes,' said Khan.

“We cannot afford complete lockdown as it will create massive unrest,” he said, adding that the situation in the country is not as bad as in Italy or France.

“If the condition was similar to that of Italy, I would have imposed a lockdown,” he said.

He urged the people to follow the policy of self-isolation and stay inside their homes. He said the government was constantly watching the situation and all necessary measures will be taken accordingly.

The government on Saturday suspended all international flights for two weeks and curtailed train services to curb the spread of the virus, which has turned into a major global crisis.

Pakistan's biggest city and its financial hub, Karachi in the southern Sindh province is set to go into complete lockdown from midnight after the provincial government confirmed 41 new coronavirus cases in the province on Sunday, taking the provincial tally to 333.

The nationwide tally of COVID-19 patients has jumped to 757, according to various reports and government spokesmen, while official data showed just 646 infections so far.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah in a video message said he had no other option left but to go for a 15-days complete lockdown in Karachi and rest of the province as the government could not sit by and risk the health and safety of its citizens to the coronavirus.

Sindh has witnessed more cases of coronavirus than any other part of the country. The provincial government said that all offices will be closed and gatherings banned. Additionally, those who are not required to, will not be allowed to go outside in public.

Shah said all mosques, religious spots would also be closed for 15-days.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Sunday confirmed third death to the novel coronavirus in the province, bringing the country’s tally of COVID-19 fatalities to four.

Addressing a news conference, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government Spokesperson Ajmal Wazir said a woman who tested positive for the virus had passed away on Saturday. She had recently returned from Iran.

The Provincial governments in Balochistan, Punjab Sindh requested deployment of the armed forces in the wake of a surge in novel coronavirus cases across the country.

The Punjab government has written a letter to the interior ministry asking for the deployment of the army to help deal with the coronavirus situation in the province.

Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar said the army’s help was needed to ensure lockdown in the province. The state identified 70 new patients, taking the total number of cases to 222, according to Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department (PSHD) spokesperson Qaiser Asif.

Balochistan has 104, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 31 and Islamabad 11 patients, according to officials.

The Gilgit-Baltistan government announced a complete lockdown from midnight for an indefinite period to help fight virus as the number of patients reached 55, region's Law Minister Aurangzeb Khan said at a press conference on Sunday.

Meanwhile, a petition has been filed in the Supreme Court on Saturday, seeking directions to the federal and provincial governments for effectively dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.

Petitioners requested the court to order the federal government to declare a national public health emergency across the country, establish an emergency relief fund, and order utilisation of the dam fund for combating the dreadful virus, the News reported. PTI SH CORR PMS CPS