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Situation can worsen, ‘hospitals may not be able to cope’: Pakistan PM Imran Khan on COVID-19

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s novel coronavirus cases rose to 4,183 on Wednesday, as Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed concern that the situation “can further deteriorate” and “our hospitals may not be able to cope” with the increasing number of patients.

The Ministry of National Health Services in its evening update said 42,159 tests, including 3,076 in the last 24 hours, have been conducted so far.

The total number of COVID-19 patients now stands at 4,183, it said.

So far 58 patients have died, including four in the last 24 hours, while 467 have recovered.

Another 25 were reported to be in critical condition.

The province and region wise data of cases was not available on the ministry’s website as it was being updated.

However, private media and official sources reported that number of patients in Punjab has risen to 2,108, followed by Sindh at 1,036, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa 527, Gilgit-Baltistan 212, Balochistan 206, Islamabad 83 and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir 28.

Pakistan is making frantic efforts to tackle the pandemic.

Prime Minister Khan once again warned the people to follow official guidelines on self-isolation or the virus would spread further.

Addressing a media briefing, Khan warned that the situation “can further deteriorate” and “our hospitals may not be able to cope with the patients”.

He, however, defended his decision to not impose total lockdown, saying over 50 million were below the poverty line in the country and they could die of hunger if such step is taken.

The prime minister said the government would launch a scheme on Thursday to transfer a total of Rs 144 billion cash to 12 million poor families.

The scheme “Ehsas Emergency Cash Programme” is aimed at providing relief to poor people hit by the lockdown, put in place due to coronavirus.

Addressing media, Sania Nishtar, Assistant to Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation, said under the programme “Rs 12,000 per month will be provided to eligible families” and the disbursement of the fund would be completed within two to three weeks.

Prime Minister Khan said more than 750,000 youth had registered under the Corona Tiger Force programme to work as volunteers and help the government to provide relief to poor people if the situation worsened.

Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa also directed his top commanders to provide full support to the federal and provincial governments in combating the pandemic.

Bajwa held a meeting with his top Generals on Tuesday during which he reviewed geo strategic, regional and national security issues with particular emphasis on latest situation arising from COVID-19, said a statement issued by the army.

The generals, who attended the meeting through video link from respective Headquarters, reviewed the deployment of troops assisting civil administration across the country.

“Appreciating the troops in the field for efforts so far, COAS directed all commanders to extend maximum assistance in moving critical resources and reaching out to mitigate suffering of people in far flung areas,” the statement said.

At least 50 prisoners in worst-hit Punjab province have tested coronavirus positive.

Inspector General Prisons Shahid Baig told PTI that some 20 cases have been reported in the camp jail Lahore and the remaining in others.

Baig said the outbreak stemmed from a Pakistani citizen who was arrested over narcotics smuggling in Italy and handed over to Pakistan last month.

He was diagnosed on March 23.

The government has extended partial lockdown till April 14 and constantly asking people to stay indoors and follow social distancing.

Meanwhile, Balochistan Young Doctors Association (YDA) in Balochistan province has announced to resume services after successful talks with the government.

The YDA was on strike due to lack of protective kits and against police brutality after their rally was baton-charged and several of their colleagues were taken in custody earlier this week.

Provincial Agriculture Minister Zamrak Khan Achakzai said an inquiry will be held against the persons who used violence against the protesting doctors.

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