ISLAMABAD         -             Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar Sunday said that any decision regarding relaxation in lockdown would be taken after 9th of May in consensus with all the provinces.

While briefing media at the National Command and Operation Centre here, Asad Umar said the National Coordination Committee on coronavirus will take the decision about the future course of action. He said the decisions will be taken in such a manner that it does not paralyse the healthcare system. He said the restrictions will be eased gradually in order to provide livelihoods to the people.

He said that the government could not open everything and ease the lockdown completely, so as to prevent the healthcare system from being overburdened. However, he told the media that even countries in Europe as Spain, Italy and France where thousands of deaths occurred have started easing lockdowns to keep the wheel of the economy turning.

He said that the country, on average, was reporting 24 deaths daily for the past few days and added going by the pattern, it may touch to nearly 720 deaths per month and added comparatively some 4,000 people die in traffic accidents across the country each month. “But we still allow traffic because it’s necessary,” he argued. “If we focus on bringing deaths due to coronavirus to zero, we have to understand that we cannot bear the measures it would take.”

He said the two most important factors to consider here are the number of beds in intensive care units (ICUs) and the number of ventilators. He said that there were nearly 5,000 beds in ICUs across the country, of which1500 were dedicated for virus patients.

He said the country also has 5,000 ventilators and the National Disaster Management Authority was trying to import even more. He said the authorities have significantly enhanced the capacity of the healthcare system. We currently have 1,400 ventilators for coronavirus patients and 900 more will be added in two months. He said at present there are 35 coronavirus patients on ventilators. He said the country has now the capacity to develop medical equipment and soon the domestic production of ventilators will start.

The Minister said the country has fifty five functional labs and we have the capacity to carry out over 14000 corona tests on daily basis.

 

Asad Umar expressed satisfaction that the coronavirus has not proved to be as contagious for Pakistan when compared with Europe and the United States. Umar compared Pakistan’s death rate to the fatality rate in other countries. “The coronavirus has caused 58 percent more deaths in the United States, 207 percent more in Spain and 124 percent more in the United Kingdom as compared to Pakistan in the same period,” he told the media. He said that countries worldwide were not focusing on eliminating the virus but controlling it. He was of the view that the actions needed to eliminate the virus would be too strict for the people to bear.

 

While talking about the impact of coronavirus on poverty and hunger, Asad Umar said that the economic impact of the lockdown on Pakistan is serious than the western countries. He cited a research by Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) which showed that between 20 million to 70m people could fall below the poverty line.

 

He said that according to PIDE’s calculations, 18 million jobs could be lost due to COVID-19. The Minister said while the virus was not as fatal in Pakistan as in other countries yet its economic impact was worse. “We have seen revenues decrease by Rs 119bn in just one month.

 

A research by Sustainable Development Policy Institute has shown that some 1m small organisations might shut down permanently, he added. The Minister said that what the government has to do is to continue increasing the health capacity. Our health capacity has increased a lot from a few months ago and we will continue working to increase that. He said the government also needed to increase the testing capacity.