ISLAMABAD - Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, Asad Umar, has said that Pakistan’s positivity rate and death toll due to the Covid-19 was much better than that in its neighbouring countries. He, however, warned that the situation could worsen if people stopped taking precautions.

Addressing media here on Tuesday, Umar said the positivity rate in the neighbouring countries of Pakistan was almost three times higher as compared to that in the country. “Positivity rate in Iran and India is 9.4 and 9.8 respectively”, he said.  He further said that the positivity rate in Bangladesh is 23-24 which is eight times higher than what is in Pakistan.

The minister lamented that the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has observed that over the past few days people were not following the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), especially at tourist spots. He urged the public to observe precautionary measures so as to avoid spread of coronavirus in the country. “Wear a mask and maintain distance. The most important thing is your attitude. If you take precautionary measures, we will see improvement,” he hoped.

He said the NCOC had directed the provincial chief secretaries to ensure that SOPs were followed and COVID-19 cases don’t increase.

Asad Umar warned that Pakistan could go down the same path as its neighbours witnessed if people did not take preventive measures.

He said that the pandemic was not just a health issue but also had an effect on people’s livelihoods and trade. He told the media that during the lockdown, the country saw more than 40 percent decrease in exports. “Remittances also decreased around 40 percent. This is equal to 40 percent employment in the country,” he said. 

He observed that conditions became difficult even for the middle class, after four to five weeks of the lockdown.

At the outset of the briefing, Umar said that Pakistan’s cases and deaths were not as high as projected earlier. “These were very fearsome projections. The projections were that Pakistan would see the highest number of deaths on August 10 and that 78,000 Pakistanis would be infected. Yesterday, only 15 people died,” he said.