LAHORE - Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid said here on Monday that the number of confirmed coronavirus patients in Punjab were 54,138, while 1,537 more people had tested positive for the virus in the last 24 hours.

Addressing a press conference at the Chief Minister’s Secretariat, the minister said strict lockdown will be enforced in selected hotspots of Lahore. Present with her at the press conference were Commissioner Lahore Saifullah Anjum, CCPO Lahore Zulfiqar Hameed, Additional Secretary Specialized Healthcare and Medical Education Department Asif Tufail, CEO Mayo Hospital Professor Asad Aslam Khan and Deputy Commissioner Lahore Danish Afzal.

She said the prime minister had hinted at a different strategy to counter the coronavirus during his visit to Lahore. “In the last two days, Shahdara, walled city, Mozang, Shadbagh, Harbanspura, Gulberg, Cantonment, Nishtar Town, Allama Iqbal Town and some other small housing societies have emerged as the worst hit areas of the provincial capital,” the minister disclosed.

“From tomorrow night onwards, these areas will be closed for two weeks. In this duration, a thorough analysis of the COVID-19 cases will be made and if a significant reduction in the cases is noticed, the lockdown may be eased before two weeks,” she said, and added, “After the lockdown, essential shops, medical stores, medical instrument factories and other industries will be gradually opened in these areas.”

She asked people to take precautionary measures, adding otherwise the government may have to extend the lockdown to other areas.

Punjab health minister said that 1,038 people had so far lost their lives to coronavirus in Punjab, of whom 62 were those who lost their lives in the last 24 hours. “So far, 18,000 people have recovered in the province,” she said, and added, “In the last 24 hours, 9,103 tests were conducted whereas the total number of tests conducted so far are 356,678. Lahore is now the epicenter of the corona pandemic in the province as the total number of patients here are 26,487.”

She further said Rawalpindi had 4,217 patients, Multan 3,140, Gujranwala 2,014, Faisalabad 3,750, and in other cities the numbers ranged between 500 to 700.

Dr Yasmin said it was unfortunate that despite the fact that the government had launched an awareness campaign after easing the lockdown, people did not comply with the SOPs. “Even though strict action was taken and some markets and shops were forcibly closed, still the people did not take the pandemic seriously,” she regretted.

 “The only solution to the pandemic is social distancing and taking the precautionary measures. The pandemic has afflicted miseries on the entire world and has hit the world economy badly.”

Elaborating further, Dr Yasmin Rashid said, “Although China initially managed to stop the spread of the virus by innovative means, the country is now again reporting the cases. New Zealand’s population is only half of Lahore’s. We must remember Pakistan is the world’s fifth largest country by population and the countries with large populations will report corresponding number of new infections.”

“In comparison with the neighbouring countries i.e. India, our statistics present a better picture. We are trying our best to control the pandemic and we have been able to contain the number of cases as well as deaths to as low as possible,” the minister claimed.

At the same time, she said, there was no room for complacency. “Although statistics indicate that we have fought the Covid-19 better than other countries of the region, still we have to improve further and save more lives. We are providing all necessary treatment facilities to the people,” she added.

Dr Yasmin said currently 140 High Dependency Units in the Specialized Healthcare hospitals and 368 in private hospitals were available whereas 30% of total beds at all hospitals had been reserved for the coronavirus patients. “Only today, Mayo Hospital and Jinnah Hospital have got 15 new ventilators each. Moreover, 1,000 beds will be added to Punjab hospitals in one week.”

The minister further added that the Actemra injection is available in all government hospitals and is being administered to patients on advice of experts. The Punjab Healthcare Commission is ensuring its availability at private hospitals. Another 10 ventilators are being installed at the Nishter Medical University and Ventilators at Tayyip Erdgon Hospital are being made 100% functional. She requested people to refrain from spreading unverified and misleading information through Social Media as it creates panic.

The Minister also said that Punjab has set up a helpline 1033 where people can get medical advice, information about the disease, information about the admitted patients and file complaints. Lahore citizens can may call at number 042 9921136-8 for information and complaints. She hoped that the lockdown in selected areas will help control the Pandemic and people with follow the SOPs.

Responding to the queries of journalists, the Minister said that markets will be closed down in the said areas and the only shops providing essential items will be allowed to open. There were 358 cases in Allama Iqbal Town and 259 cases in WAPDA Town. Only critically ill patients are put on ventilators and doctors make the final decision as to who will be put on ventilators. She also said that a meeting was held with YDA in which provision of facilities for doctors were discussed. The NDMA is providing full support to the provincial health departments (s) and the problems of frontline workers are being resolved on priority basis. She said the healthcare workers serving for Corona patients deserve utmost respect from the nation for their great service.