ISLAMABAD - Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar on Sunday said the pace of coronavirus spread is slowing down in the country due to effective lockdown measures.

Addressing a news conference in Islamabad, he said that in the upcoming week more decisions will be made regarding targeted lockdown and provision of better health services. It is encouraging for the authorities that the virus is spreading at a slow pace which is a good development, he said.

He said the main task is to trace those who are infected with COVID-19 and for this the authorities need to ramp up the testing capacity across the country. The National Coordination Committee (NCC) on COVID-19 had decided to extend the lockdown till April 14, which helped in curtailing the spread of coronavirus, the minister said.

“But if the number of coronavirus patients continues to rise then we fear that it might create problems for our health sector,” he warned. Umar, who also heads the National Command and Control Centre (NCOC) for coronavirus, said hospitals where ICU and ventilator facility is available will be provided protective gears on priority basis.

He however, said that nothing could be predicted about the future cases due to infection of the virus.

“I cannot predict what will be the situation after April 14,” he said. He said that while the lockdown has slowed down the growth of cases, the country’s healthcare system would not be able to cope as the number continues to increase.

PTI leader Asad Umar said that the government was trying to develop a mechanism through which the areas with most cases can be identified and preventive measures can be taken in accordance with the trends. He said that the government had taken measures to ensure the protection of medical staff and expand the capacity of hospitals across the country and is developing a mechanism to provide protective gear, ventilators and other important medical equipment.

He paid tribute to healthcare workers, volunteers, police, and personnel of law enforcement agencies who are working around the clock. He said that the government found that while the rate of the coronavirus spread is not as fast as it could have been the growing number of cases could still test the country’s healthcare system and facilities.

The number of cases continues to soar despite the country being under a lockdown for the third consecutive week. 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 by the virus.

The nationwide tally of COVID-19 patients surged past 3,000 on Sunday with 1,196 case in Punjab, 881 in Sindh, 372 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 185 in Balochistan, 206 in Gilgit Baltistan, 78 in Islamabad, and 14 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The virus has claimed over 45 lives so far in the country.

 

Asad Umar said the government is working to improve the medical facilities and steps are being taken to increase the testing capability for Coronavirus and providing more ventilators to hospitals. He said the safety of medical staff is our prime responsibility and for this purpose the provision of protective equipment is being ensured.