ISLAMABAD - As government partially lifted the lockdown after more than one and a half month on Monday, Prime Minister Imran Khan said the lockdown restrictions were eased in phases keeping in view Pakistan’s economic condition, the people’s problems and the situation of other countries, so that a balance between economic activities and protection measures could be maintained.

He said there was a growing realization of the fact internationally that lockdown was a temporary action against the coronavirus, however, protective measures should not in any way be neglected. The prime minister expressed the views while chairing a high-level meeting here on the COVID-19 situation.

 The meeting was attended by federal ministers Hammad Azhar, Asad Umar and Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, advisors Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh and Abdul Razak Dawood, special assistants Lt. Gen. ® Asim Saleem Bajwa, Dr Zafar Mirza and Dr Moeed Yusuf, and senior officers.

The prime minister said reservations about the coronavirus tests in some sections should be removed and the masses be encouraged to go for testing on their own in case of having any symptoms of the disease. The people should be informed about the self-quarantine at homes so that they could adopt the home-quarantine methods, he added.

With 28 deaths in a day, infections swell to 30,941

During the meeting, the prime minister was briefed in detail about the current situation of coronavirus. The meeting reviewed the situation regarding the confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country and the provision of health facilities to the affected. It also discussed the provision of protective materials to doctors and medical staff, and other facilities for them. Talking about the present situation of ventilators in the country, the prime minister directed to formulate a comprehensive policy for easy availability of ventilators and their best utilization so that such facility could be easily made available in case of any emergency.

 

On the other hand, the virus infections reached 30,941 with 1,476 new cases reported during last 24 hours.

While sharing the data, an official of National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Coronavirus said on Monday that the total 667 deaths had been reported from the disease with 28 reported during last 24 hours.

 

He said that 8,212 patients had been recovered. He added total 294,894 tests had been conducted while in last 24 hours 11,367 tests were conducted. He said 11,480 cases were reported from Sindh, 11,568 from Punjab, 4,669 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 679 from Islamabad, 442 from Gilgit Baltistan, 2,017 from Balochistan and 86 from Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).

 

He said that in total confirmed cases, 9,210 active cases were reported from Sindh, 7,048 from Punjab, 3,298 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 601 from Islamabad, 134 from Gilgit Baltistan, 1,749 from Balochistan and 22 from Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).

 

He said that 189 deaths had been reported from Sindh, 197 from Punjab, 245 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, six from Islamabad, four from Gilgit Baltistan, 26 from Balochistan and no any death was reported from AJK. He said that 2,081 patients had recovered in Sindh, 4,323 in Punjab, 1,126 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 72 in Islamabad, 303 Gilgit Baltistan, 242 in Balochistan and 64 in AJK.

 

 

Millions of people on Monday returned to work as authorities allowed businesses in the big cities with strict SOPs from dawn to dusk. Markets were seen packed with shoppers in many cities and there was heavy traffic on the roads.

 

 

Meanwhile, the federal government under a new policy has planned to bring back around 12,000 overseas Pakistan in next 10 days who are stranded due to outbreak of COVID-19 across the world.

Addressing a press conference at the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Security Dr. Moeed Yusuf said that the government would bring home up to 12,000 Pakistanis from 22 countries in next ten days under a new policy devised on the directions of Prime Minister Imran Khan

“We will try to bring back maximum Pakistanis before Eidul Fitr and this was our target and the direction of PM as well,” he said. He implied that weekly cap for international inbound passengers had been increased from 8,000 to 12,000 under this policy. The total number of passengers planned to be brought back from 11th – 21st May was approximately 11,000, he said

“Earlier we were able to being back about 7,500 stranded Pakistanis in last ten days,” he said adding that the government with the consultations of all provinces and other stakeholders had enforced the new policy from May 11.

Under the new policy, the government reduced the quarantine period before testing of COVID-19 for inbound air passengers from 48 hours to earliest possible, he said. “Passengers will be transported to quarantine centers and will stay there until the return of tests results,” he said and added, “Those tested negative for the coronavirus will be sent home and positive cases will either be quarantined at government facility or isolated at home according to the provincial health authorities’ directions.”

The SAPM on National Security said that the provinces had been allowed under the new policy that passengers with positive cases but no symptoms could be quarantined for 14 days at their homes. The provinces could also bring passengers to quarantine centers in their nearest areas to get them tested there, he added.

Moeed said about 20,000 stranded Pakistanis had been brought back home while 110,000 other overseas Pakistanis desired to return home and this number was increasing with the passage of time. 

He said on the direction of Prime Minister Imran Khan, the government was endeavoring to bring maximum stranded Pakistanis back home at the earliest.

He said the government planned to operationalize Sialkot and Quetta airports as well in the days to come.

Talking about some reports that a large number of inbound passengers had been tested positive for COVID-19 in the past, he said that the government had agreed with the Middle Eastern countries that all passengers would be tested before boarding and social distancing would be observed in flights. He said that all passengers would be tested again in Pakistan as well.

With the increased number of inbound passengers and keeping in mind the local situation, we would continue to use our best capabilities to test patients within 24 hours, and then release them after obtaining test results, he said. However, he said that some delays would have to be tolerated as quarantine and testing capacities come under stress.

The SAPM said that they were looking at the complete data for passengers, and hoped that it would allow them to bring Pakistanis back without burdening the local health system.

He also informed that the US had allowed Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to bring back Pakistanis from there.