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2020 coronavirus pandemic in Pakistan

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2020 coronavirus pandemic in Pakistan
COVID-19 Outbreak Cases in Pakistan.png
Map of confirmed cases by districts in Pakistan as of 31 March 2020
  Confirmed cases reported
  Suspected cases reported
DiseaseCOVID-19
Virus strainSARS-CoV-2
LocationPakistan
First outbreakWuhan, Hubei, China
Index caseKarachi
Arrival date26 February 2020
(1 month, 1 week and 1 day)
Confirmed cases2386 (Govt. tracker)[1]
2291 (MoNHSRC confirmed)[2][a]
Severe cases9 (Govt. tracker)[1]
Recovered107 (Govt. tracker)[1]
Deaths
34 (Govt. tracker)[1]
Official website
www.covid.gov.pk

The 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic was confirmed to have reached Pakistan in February 2020. As of 2 April 2020, the number of confirmed cases in the country is over 2000, with 107 recoveries and 33 deaths. Punjab is currently the region with highest number of cases at over 900.[1] Multiple regions across the country have imposed lockdowns until early April to stem the outbreak. These include Punjab,[3] Sindh,[4] Balochistan[5] and Azad Kashmir[6] while Gilgit-Baltistan has imposed lockdown indefinitely.[7]

Timeline


COVID-19 cases in Pakistan  ()
     Deaths        Recoveries        Active cases

Feb Feb Mar Mar Apr Apr Last 15 days Last 15 days

Date
# of cases
# of deaths
2020-02-26
2(n.a.)
2(=)
2020-02-29
4(+100%)
4(=)
2020-03-03
5(+25%)
5(=)
2020-03-05
6(+20%)
6(=)
2020-03-08
7(+16%)
2020-03-09
16(+128%)
2020-03-10
19(+19%)
2020-03-11
20(+5%)
2020-03-12
21(+5%)
2020-03-13
28(+33%)
2020-03-14
31(+11%)
2020-03-15
53(+71%)
2020-03-16
187(+252%)
2020-03-17
241(+29%)
2020-03-18
302(+25%) 2(+2)
2020-03-19
461(+53%) 2(=)
2020-03-20
495(+7%) 3(+1)
2020-03-21
646(+30%) 3(=)
2020-03-22
784(+21%) 5(+2)
2020-03-23
887(+13%) 6(+1)
2020-03-24
991(+12%) 7(+1)
2020-03-25
1057(+7%) 8(+1)
2020-03-26
1197(+12%) 9(+1)
2020-03-27
1408(+18%) 11(+2)
2020-03-28
1526(+8%) 13(+2)
2020-03-29
1625(+6%) 18(+5)
2020-03-30
1865(+15%) 25(+7)
2020-03-31
2039(+9%) 26(+1)
2020-04-01
2291(+12%) 31(+5)
Cases: The number of non-repatriated cases reported by the Government
Sources: Official reports from the National Institute of Health

February 2020

On 26 February, Pakistan confirmed its first two cases of the coronavirus. Zafar Mirza, the Prime Minister's Special Assistant on Health, stated in a tweet: "I can confirm first two cases of coronavirus in Pakistan. Both cases are being taken care of according to clinical standard protocols & both of them are stable."[8][9]

The first patient was a student at the University of Karachi, Karachi in Sindh province while the second patient was from the federal territory of the country.[10] Both patients had recently returned from Iran.[11][12]

Within a week of the first two cases, Pakistan confirmed three more cases, including a case in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad and also in Rawalpindi, Punjab.[13][14][15]

March 2020

March 1–10 – Early spread

The fifth case was also reported, on 2 March, from the federal area of the country,[16][17] of a 45-year-old woman from Gilgit-Baltistan, who had also travelled from Iran.[18]

On 6 March, Murtaza Wahab announced that the first patient in Karachi had fully recovered and was later discharged from hospital after testing negative.[19][20] On 8 March, Pakistan confirmed its seventh case of COVID-19, also in Karachi.[21]

The next day, Pakistan reported nine new cases in Karachi, meaning that there was a total of 16 cases of COVID-19, with Sindh having the highest number of cases, 13 altogether.[22] Five of the new patients had travelled to Syria and some others patients had returned from London. Three new cases were confirmed on 10 March, including one in Hyderabad and the first case in Quetta, Balochistan.[23][24]

March 11–19 – Outbreak

On 11 March, 76 suspected cases were reported in several districts of Punjab province, including Lahore, Gujranwala, Sargodha, Hafizabad and Lodhran. The Healthcare Department officials informed that ten patients were immediately cleared of the suspicion, while 55 patients were cleared after testing negative.[25] A second case in Gilgit-Baltistan was confirmed the same day in Skardu leaving the tally at 20.[26] A third case was confirmed in Gilgit-Baltistan in Shigar district on 12 March, who had a travel history of Iran and was reported to be under treatment at the Skardu hospital.[27] The same day, Murtaza Wahab informed that the second patient of the virus had completely recovered.[citation needed] On 13 March, the Sindh Health Department identified a 52-year-old patient as positive, which marked the first case of local disease transmission as the patient had travelled from Islamabad.[28][29] 24 of the 27 suspected cases in Khyber Pakhtunkwa were also cleared that day.[30] At the end of the day, the total number of cases had risen to 28, with six new cases in Taftan and another in Sindh.[31][32] By 14 March, the number of cases was 31 as two new patients were found positive in Karachi while one was reported in Islamabad.[33]

Five more cases were announced in Karachi the next day on 15 March, including a second local transmission of the coronavirus in Sindh, while the other three had a travel history of Saudi Arabia and one had been to Balochistan.[34] There was also a new case reported in Islamabad Capital Territory. Lahore Health Secretary, Mohammad Usman confirmed the first case of coronavirus in Punjab in the city of Lahore. The infected patient had returned from United Kingdom on 10 March and was shifted to Mayo Hospital in an isolation ward.[35] The National Institute of Health reported 11 new cases in Sindh and 6 new in a mobile lab at the Taftan border area. and the first case in Punjab, increasing the tally to 53.[36][37] On 16 March, a total of 134 new positives cases were registered, the majority of them, 116 in Sindh. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also reported its first 15 cases[38] while 3 were found in Balochistan. This marked the sharpest increase so far as not only were more than a 100 cases were reported in a province within a day but also the number across the country reached 187.[39][40][41] The tally had shot up to 237 with 25 new cases in Punjab, 12 in Sindh and 4 in Islamabad on 17 March.[42][43][44]

By 18 March, the first case of coronavirus was reported from Azad Kashmir. The provinces of Sindh and Gilgit-Baltistan saw an increase of cases by 36 and 10 respectively. New cases were also reported in other provinces. A patient from Hyderabad was also discharged after recovering in Sindh province, making the total number of recovered cases 5. A total of 302 positive cases were confirmed in Pakistan on 18 March.[45][46] The first two deaths due to the virus in the country were also confirmed on the day. Both were reported from the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the first being a 50-year-old man who had recently from Saudi Arabia to Mardan District after performing Umrah in Mecca, while the second victim was a 36-year-old from Hangu District. Both had been hospitalised in Peshawar.[47]

The cases doubled by more than half from 33 to 80 in Punjab; and from 23 to 81 in Balochistan on 19 March. The rise in cases led the provincial government of Balochistan to declare a health emergency and impose a ban on public transport. The provincial government spokesperson Liaquat Shahwani stated that a relief package will be provided to the employees of transport companies.[48] With a total of 159 new cases, the number confirmed cases jumped to 461.[49]

March 20–31 – First deaths

On 20 March, the first death was reported in Sindh. The patient was a 77-year-old who had acquired the virus through local transmission.[50] The patient was a cancer survivor and had other underlying medical problems such as hypertension and diabetes.[51] While in other provinces, the increase in number of new cases was lower compared to the past few days at 34 and the tally stood at 495.[2]

On 22 March, the third death in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was announced. The first death in Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan were also announced on that day, meaning that the number of deaths increased to 6. The number of cases had also increased to 784 with 138 new cases.[52][53] The fatality at DHQ Hospital in Gilgit was a doctor who contracted the virus after screening pilgrims returning from Iran.[54][55] On 22 March, Gilgit-Baltistan went under lockdown for an indefinite period.[56] 13 new pilgrims from Taftan via Dera Ghazi Khan were put in quarantine at Mirpur. Also on that day, DESCON donated 10,000 hand sanitisers to hospitals in Punjab, whereas in Balochistan 26 drivers who transported the positive COVID-19 cases to hospitals were kept in quarantine.[57]

On 23 March, many doctors across the nation complained about the lack of proper equipment for battling the virus. A spokesman for Doctors' Union in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa said, "We do not have personal protective equipment (PPE), or goggles, and even [face] masks we are buying from our own funds".[58] Arrangements were made on the day by the Foreign Office to bring 72 Pakistanis stranded at the Doha International Airport in Doha, Qatar as it had decided to temporarily ban travelers from Pakistan and 14 other countries early in the month. The passengers were subject to strict screening upon arrival.[59] Another flight was arranged to bring 150 citizens for the UAE stranded at Dubai and Abu Dhabi International Airport.[60] The Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani tested positive for the virus and self-quarrantined for 14 days that day.[61] He recovered from the virus on 30 March.[62]

On 24 March, Sindh and Balochistan observed lockdown until 7 April, while Azad Kahmsir went under it until 13 April respectively.[4][5][6] Punjab also imposed lockdown on 24 March, but only until 6 April.[3] In Sindh, the local police detained 472 people in various districts of the province the same day in violation of the lockdown, with 222 of them in Karachi alone and a total of 72 FIRs were registered on 24 March. The cases pertained to hoarding and profiteering of safety masks and hand sanitisers, large gatherings, opening shops and restaurants and travelling in passenger buses.[63] The provincial government of Sindh allowed 640 pilgrims quarantined in Sukkur to return home after being tested negative for the virus. The Chief Minister issued directives for the relevant deputy commissioners to receive the pilgrims on their return and monitor their health conditions for the next 10 days.[64]

On 25 March, several restrictions were imposed in the capital territory of Islamabad. These included closing of the outpatient departments of hospitals, complete bans on intra-city, inter-district and inter-province public transport as well as gatherings in public and private places.[65] Three new recoveries were announced as well as the eighth death in the country. The number of positive cases in the nation crossed 1,000 as the tally increased to 1,057.[66] On 26 March, 140 new cases were tested positive across Pakistan. One new death was reported in Punjab, meaning that the death toll increased to 9. The total number of cases reached 1,197. Meanwhile, the number of recoveries increased by 2.[67]

On 27 March, Pakistan reported a total of 211 new cases, the first time the number crossed 200. Punjab also overtook Sindh as the province with highest number of cases at 490, while two deaths were also reported there.[68] The National Institute of Health (NIH) distributed N95 masks across Sindh, while in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, screeing teams were deputed at all district entry and exit points for screening of visitors of Covid-19 patients. In Gilgit-Baltistan, the local government decided that all travellers coming from the Taftan border would be tested for COVID-19. The total number of positive cases in the country reach 1408, while 3 patients were discharged, making the recovered cases a total of 26 and two deaths occurred, taking the total number of deaths to 11.[69] The NIH initiated district level trainings of high-dependency unit, isolation and quarantine staff across Punjab.[70]

On 28 March, the Foundation set up by the Chinese billionaire Jack Ma and the Alibaba Group sent a second aircraft carrying various medical supplies to Pakistan. The aircraft was received in Karachi with at least 50,000 testing kits, large number of face masks, ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE), which were combined around two tonnes of supplies worth Rs67 million.[71] The same day, Pakistan allowed Thai Airways to resume its flight operation for Islamabad to bring back 175 Pakistanis stranded in Bangkok, Thailand.[72] Meanwhile, the Government of Punjab announced a Rs10 billion relief package for financial support of 2.5 million families of daily-wage earners.[73]

The country reported an additional 118 cases on 29 March, taking the total to 1,526. One death each was reported in the provinces of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, taking the total number of deceased to 13. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa developed and disseminated quarantine discontinuation guidelines.[70] Also on the day, five Pakistani nationals visiting India on medical visas returned home via the Wagah border after being stranded in Noida and New Delhi due to the countrywide 21-day lockdown imposed by the Indian government.[74] Two of them tested positive for the virus on 31 March.[75] As the cases neared 500 in Sindh, the CM of the province said that the data showed 25% of cases were due to local transmission. He stated, "the local transmission ratio is worrisome and needs to be contained further."[76]

On 30 March, Pakistan reported the highest number of new cases in a single day for March at 240. The total number reached 1,865 while total recoveries stood at 58 with 25 deaths.[77] the Federal Minister for Science and Technology Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said that locally manufactured ventilators and testing kits would hit the market in the coming days. The coronavirus testing kits were developed by Pakistan's National University of Sciences & Technology (NUST) have been handed to the Drug Regulatory Authority (DRAP) for final approval. While the Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) developed ventilators, in collaboration with NED University of Engineering and Technology and Pakistan Engineering Board, which were handed over to DRAP later in the week. He also said that the capacity of Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR) for production of hand sanitizers was enhanced.[78]

On 31 March, 82 total recoveries were announced, as well as the 26th death in the country. 174 new cases were tested positive, meaning that the total number of positive cases had increased to 2039.[79]

April 2020

On 1 April, 252 new cases were confirmed, bringing the total number of cases to 2291. One death each was reported in KP, Punjab and Sindh, meaning that the number of deaths increased to 31.[80]

Other cases

On 29 January, four Pakistani students studying in China were tested positive for COVID-19. Two more were later confirmed making the total number 6. Four of the students had recovered on 12 February while the other two recovered on 14 February after being hospitalised in Guangzhou.[81]

On 11 March, the Pakistani Consulate in Milan announced the first death of a Pakistani from COVID-19 in Brescia, Italy.[82]

A Pakistani national tested positive at the Torkham border between Pakistan and Afghanistan on 12 March. It was reported that the patient was an employee of Pakistani embassy in Afghanistan.[83]

On 20 March, the Palestinian Health Ministry announced a new case in Salfit Governorate, Palestine, which originated from Pakistan.[84][85] On 21 March, Palestinian sources confirmed the first two cases in Gaza City, Gaza; the two Palestinians had traveled from Pakistan and entered Gaza through Egypt. Once they had tested positive for the virus they were placed in quarantine in Rafah since their arrival on 19 March.[86][87][88]

On 28 March, Pakistani squash player Azam Khan died of COVID-19 in London, United Kingdom, at the age of 95.[89]

Prevention measures and response

Federal

March 2020

The national carrier, PIA decided to suspend the flight operation between Pakistan and China till January 30 due to the outbreak. After confirmed reports of hundreds of cases in neighbouring China, the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) introduced screening measures at four major airports: Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar for every passenger arriving from China.[90] Screening was also started for domestic travellers at Karachi's airport on 21 March.[91]

On 13 March, President Dr. Arif Alvi in a special tweet, advised the public to avoid participation in mass gatherings, handshaking or hugging in addition to taking other precautionary measures if they observe symptoms of flu or coronavirus infection.[92][93] Pakistan also stopped all international flights, except those at Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore airports on the day.[94]

It was also decided on 13 March at the National Security Council meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan that all schools and universities would be closed until 5 April. However, the faculty and staff will go to work as usual. The lectures and classes will be held online in some institutions i.e., Riphah International University, FAST NUCES University, Institute of Space Technology.[95][96] The Pakistan Day Parade, scheduled to be held on 23 March was also cancelled along with all public events[97] and proceedings of the Senate were postponed for two weeks on the day.[98]

Pakistan closed its borders to travellers from Afghanistan at the Chaman border from 2 until 21 March.[99] The border was only partially reopened later after 21 March for transportation of food items while pedestrian movement remained suspended.[100] The Durand Line border was sealed from 16 March for at least two weeks. The same time period also applied to the land border with Iran after reopening it on 7 March from a previous closure.[95][101][102][103] All land borders, including the China-Pakistan border with China were shut from 16 March.[104]

Lieutenant General Muhammad Afzal, the NDMA chairman, announced that the government was working on securing more PPEs and other resources for healthcare workers on 20 March.[58]

On 21 March, all international flights were suspended for two weeks. The Civil Aviation Authority stated, “[The] government of Pakistan has decided to suspend operation of all international passenger, chartered and private flights to Pakistan, effective from March 21 till April 4”.[105][106] This led to many citizens being stranded in the Middle East, Thailand and Malaysia.[107] The Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed declared the suspension of 42 trains.[108]

The health ministry announced that 14 metric tonnes of PPE, "including face masks, thermometers, gloves [and] gowns", had been dispatched to Pakistan on 22 March.[58] The federal government offered financial assistance to Sindh by allotting the province $10 million from the non-development funds of the World Bank the same day. Imran Ismail, the Governor of Sindh stated that the federal government was taking "vigorous measures" to control the outbreak and that rations will be provided to the families of patients.[109]

On 23 March, the nation celebrated Pakistan Day without any public gatherings or military parade. The Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Dr. Arif Alvi urged the nation to demonstrate unity, discipline and passion in fighting the coronavirus pandemic.[110] The PM also stated that a complete lockdown of the country was not feasible as 25% of the population lives below the poverty line and would make their lives miserable.[111] The government has over 35 hospitals across the country set up to deal with the outbreak, equipped with more than 118,000 beds as of the day.[58]

The National Assembly speaker Asad Qaiser summoned a meeting of the parliamentary leaders of the Senate and the Lower house to review and discuss the role of the Parliament in containing the spread of the pandemic across the country for 25 March on the day.[112]

On 24 March, the Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa ordered the deployment of troops nationwide and military's medical resources to fight the ongoing outbreak alongside the national health infrastructure after the Ministry of Interior approved the action on the previous day. The Ministry had received requests in this regard from the provincial governments over the past two days amid surging number of patients.[113][114]

The State Bank of Pakistan issued a statement the same day declaring that it would be providing disinfected cash to all banks for circulation while ensuring to "clean, disinfect, seal and quarantine all cash being collected from hospitals and clinics and to block circulation of such cash in the market." It was further assured that banks could re-issue cash which remained in quarantine for 15 days and all ATMs as well as call centres and helplines would be running 24/7. Banks could close branches only if a staff member tested positive for the virus or "where requisite human resources [were] not available” to avoid congestion as it would be counterproductive to social distancing.[115]

On 26 March, Pakistan decided to seek $3.7 billion additional financing from three multilateral creditors including another loan of $1.4 billion from the International Monetary Fund to cope with the challenges being posed by the novel coronavirus outbreak. Adviser to the PM on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh announced at a news conference that the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank would also extend loans of $1 billion and $1.25 billion respectively to the country.

The PM announced formation of youth force labelled ‘Corona Relief Tigers’ to help government in fight against the spread of coronavirus nationwide on 27 March. The force was distributed across the country and would be used to supply food items to people in their houses in case Covid-19 cases sharply rose in a locality. The recruitment began on 31 March.[116]

Due to various lockdowns imposed by the regional governments, the goods transport system came to a halt in later March. Thus, the federal government decided on 29 March that highways and roads across the country would remain open to ensure the transportation of goods and also increased the number of freight trains to avert a shortage of food and other essential supplies. Chairing a meeting, the Prime Minister asked the provincial governments to take strict action against hoarders and profiteers who were trying to exploit the ongoing crisis.[117] By late March, many regions in Pakistan had considered releasing under-trial prisoners to curb the outbreak in jails. However, on 30 March, the Supreme Court refrained high courts and federal and provincial governments to pass any order regarding the release of under-trial prisoners.[118] Also on 30 March, the State Minister for Health, Dr Zafar Mirza announced that the Higher Education Commission (HEC) was inviting proposals from researchers, scientists, technicians, manufacturers and other experts that could assist the government in its fight against Covid-19, adding that the commission would provide generous funding to prospective researchers if their ideas are accepted. Meanwhile, the Lt. Gen. Afzal said that Sindh had been provided 20,000 testing kits, Punjab 5,000, Balochistan 4,800 and that up to 37,000 kits had been put into reserve.[119] The Federal Minister for Inter Provincial Coordination Dr. [[Fehmida Mirza] announced to create a fund to cover all medical expenses of sports persons infected with COVID-19 on that day.[120]

April 2020

On 1 April, Special Assistant on Information and Broadcasting Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan said that protective kits would be provided to the journalists covering vulnerable areas including quarantine centers. She also announced the launching of an app called COVID-19 Care for Media to help the journalists affected by the virus. Furthermore, newspapers hawkers would also be registered in Ehsaas Emergency Cash program; part of the economic relief package announced by the federal government, as their sales had also been affected due to the outbreak.[121]

Economic Relief Package

On 24 March, the Prime Minister approved a Rs1.2 trillion economic relief package. Of this, a total of Rs150 billion was allotted for low-income groups, particularly laborers while 280 billion rupees ($1.76 billion) was assigned for wheat procurement. Loan interest payments for exporters were deferred temporarily, while a package of 100 billion rupees ($63 million) was provided to support small industries and the agriculture sector. There was also a significant deduction in petroleum prices and the public couple pay electricity and gas bills below a certain amount in installments.[122][123] Under the package the monthly stipend of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) was increased from Rs2,000 to Rs3,000. It was decided that the funds of the government's Ehsaas programme would be distributed among the poor according to the available data of the BISP and through the under progress National Socio-Economic Registry (NSER) of the BISP. The total number of BISP beneficiaries was 5.2 million but the number was increased under the package.[124] The relief package also included a special package for healthcare professionals. According to which, if a doctor or a paramedic died while treating coronavirus patients, they would be considered martyrs and their families would receive the package that is given to martyrs.[117]

The federal cabinet reviewed and approved the economic relief package on 31 March. The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) finalised the package, including a Rs100-billion supplementary grant for an Emergency Relief Fund to combat the pandemic. It also approved a special package for relief to 12 million poor families through cash assistance under the Ehsaas Programme, where cash grants would be provided under the Kafalat Programme and emergency cash assistance to the poor on the recommendation of the district administration. The financial assistance was provided for four months as a one-time dispensation. The cash would be provided either in one Rs12,000 installment through Kafalat partner banks, Bank Alfalah and Habib Bank Limited after biometric verification or in two installments of Rs6,000 each.[125]

Regional

Current Lockdown Regions[b]
Province or Territory Start Date End Date
Punjab[3] 24 March 6 April
Sindh[4] 24 March 7 April
Balochistan[5] 24 March 7 April
Gilgit-Baltistan[7] 22 March Indefinite
Azad Kashmir[6] 24 March 13 April

Punjab

The Government of Punjab declared a health emergency on 12 March in a cabinet meeting. A quarantine facility was established in the Dera Ghazi Khan district for the pilgrims returning from Iran.[96]

On 22 March, the government decided to close down shopping malls, markets, parks and public gathering places for two days till 24 March. Punjab Chief Minister, Sardar Usman Buzdar urged people to stay at home, practice social distancing and avoid unnecessary travel.[126] Despite this, local media reported that many residents in Lahore had failed to practice the measures and downright defied it by opening up businesses and gathering in large numbers on various public grounds. This led to the local police and city administration to forcibly vacate them.[127]

On 23 March, The Chief Minister announced a 14 days lockdown from 24 March till 6 April. All markets, shopping malls and public places were closed and pillion riding was banned.[3] He also announced that a 1,000 bed hospital would be setup in Lahore while five other hospitals were designated for coronavirus patients across the province the next day on 23 March while the local government and rescue services started disinfecting towns and cities. Public bus services were also temporarily suspended to disinfect all buses and stations.[128] The Secretary Home Department of Punjab wrote a letter one the day to the Ministry of Interior seeking the assistance of the military under Article 245.[112] The Punjab University manufactured coronavirus protection kits along with large amounts of hand sanitisers, disinfectants and antiseptic wet-tissues for the public. The sanitisers are for national usage. An online initiative was started for online purchases for home deliveries.[129] Also on the day, more than 150 pilgrims arrived in Faisalabad from Iran via the Taftan border to be quarantined at a centre. More arrangements were made to quarantine another 450 pilgrims returning at a centre established in the campus of the Agricultural University. The government established the largest quarantine centre in the nation in Multan at Multan Industrial Estate to isolate the returning pilgrims with 3000 rooms. It had 1,247 pilgrims in quarantine as of the day. A companion 50 bed hospital was also setup to aid the centre.[130]

The NIH initiated district level training of high-dependency unit, isolation and quarantine staff across the province on 27 March.[70]

The Chief Minister of the province announced a Rs10 billion relief package for financial support of 2.5 million families of daily-wage earners on 28 March. Each family was entitled to Rs4,000 financial assistance excluding the beneficiaries of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).[131] The government also decided to remove provincial taxes to the tune of Rs18bn. The CM said that the Punjab government had decided to use its special powers for granting 90-day imprisonment rebate to prisoners in jails across the province which would benefit some 3,100 prisoners. Furthermore, the Punjab Infectious Diseases Prevention and Control Ordinance, 2020, was implemented to allow the civil administration and health department to implement government measures with complete ease and under the cover of law. It was also declared that the government would provide a month's additional salary to all healthcare workers across Punjab.[73][132] The Punjab Minister for Finance Hashim Jawan Bakht said that the economic package would also help the health sector and the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) cope with the crisis with an immediate funding of Rs11.5 billion. To aid the medical professionals, a textile owner from Lahore offered to manufacture PPE voluntarily and free of cost.[133] Also in the meeting, the CM stated that laboratories around the province would test 3,200 people every day for coronavirus and 10,000 doctors and paramedics were being recruited to fight the pandemic.[117]

Sindh

On 1 March, Chief Minister of Sindh, Syed Murad Ali Shah, announced the closure of all educational institutes in Sindh until 13 March,[134][135] which was later extended until 30 May.[136] On 12 March, the Government of Sindh also announced that the remaining PSL matches at National Stadium, Karachi would be held behind closed doors.[137] The Sindh government announced on 13 March that all educational institutions will remain closed until 30 May[96] imposed a temporary ban on marriage halls, shrines and festivals in the province on 14 March.[138]

On 20 March, the Pakistan Army helped setup a 10,000-bed field hospital at Karachi's Expo Centre to isolate and treat confirmed patients. ALl expenses for its establishment were born by the provincial government.[139] On 21 March, the Government of Sindh announced a lockdown in the province for 14 days from morning of 24 March, ordering all public transport, markets, offices, shopping malls, restaurants, and public areas to be shut down.[4][140] The Sindh government announced paid leave for all workers during the lockdown, and said no would be laid off during the period under Section 3 of the Sindh Epidemic Diseases Act (2014) and other relevant labor laws.[141] The province banned intra-city transport to minimize the outbreak and multiple violators were issued fines, impounded and canceled.[142] The national army was called to enfore the lockdown.[143] On 23 March, an isolation and quarantine centre was completed at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical College in Karachi which also provided free tests of suspected cases with results in 8 hours of sample submission.[129]

The Pakistan Cricket Board, on request from the Sindh Government, agreed to convert its Hanif Mohammad High Performance Centre into a temporary living area for paramedic staff working at the makeshift hospital at Expo Centre, Karachi on 24 March.[144] The local police detained 472 people in various districts of the province on the day, with 222 of them in Karachi alone and a total of FIRs were registered. The cases pertained to hoarding and profiteering of safety masks and hand sanitisers, large gatherings, opening shops and restaurants and travelling in passenger buses. Multiple violations of the lockdown were observed in several places across the province such as gatherings on the beach, residents being out and major markets, shopping centres, bazaars and restaurants remained open.[63] As a result, a taskforce meeting led by the Chief Minister was held on the next day on 25 March to take more stringent measures to ensure that all residents abided by the government orders of. It was resolved that all grocery stores and shops apart from pharmacies and medical stores to remain closed between 8pm and 8am. The Sindh Inspector General of Police, Javed Ahmed Mahar was directed to make measures taken in connection with the lockdown and make certain that people were not allowed to roam freely in the city unnecessarily. Additionally, the Chief Secretary and Karachi Commissioner were ordered to ensure that big factories remained closed during the lockdown and direct banks to keep only important branches operational.[145]

On 25 March, the provincial health department officials began coronavirus case mapping as per directives by the Chief Minister. He further tasked them with sharing the data with deputy commissioners so necessary measures could be taken to contain the outbreak in their respective areas. Orders were also given to improve sampling arrangements, upon which 18 vehicles of the Indus Hospital were dedicated for collecting samples from homes. The health officials briefed the Chief Minister about a new machine made at at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China, which could test secretions from the nose instead of testing throat secretion as was the current procedure. At this, the CM directed the provincial Chief Secretary to consult with medical experts whether procuring the machine would be feasible and if they deemed it to be beneficial, place an order for 100 machines. The CM further stated that he would request the federal government for a special aircraft to transport the machines if the government decided to procure them.[64]

On the same day, the local government also arranged to launch a mobile service across the province to provide rations to the needy along with daily wagers to those affected by the pandemic. A number was dedicated for the service and those in need could text there. Moreover, a warehouse was established for storage of ration bags and a helpline set up for people to register for acquiring the bags. The CM also ordered to release Rs341 million for carrying out administrative work under district administrations and spending on facilities provided to pilgrims.[146]

On 27 March, public holidays were extended till 5 April in the province while markets and shopping malls were to remain closed till 10 April. Ajmal Wazir, the adviser to the CM stated that the government the government had decided on tax exemption to facilitate the business community and protect jobs with Rs17.5 billion reserved for wheat procurement. An amount of Rs8 billion was also approved for district hospitals to enable them by the urgent supplies.[147] To further enforce lockdown, the Sindh govt restricted movement between 8AM and 5PM, while all grocery stores were ordered to be closed by 5 PM. These restrictions went into force on 28 March.[148] Sindh Province also received 500,000 K N95 masks from China.[149] On 29 March, the Sindh CM approved a proposal to release about 4,000 convicts from prison in order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus outbreak in the province's jails.[150]

On 30 March, the Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah made public a mobile application, namely the Sindh Relief Initiative, on which welfare organisations could register to work with the provincial government for the distribution of ration among daily-wagers at their doorstep.[151] Also on the day, the Mayor of Karachi, Wasim Akhtar designated five cemeteries in the city for burials of those who died due to coronavirus. He said that only a few close relatives of the deceased could enter the cemetery for burial, adding that the body would be brought into the cemetery with protective measures and no last sighting would be allowed. The mayor also wrote to the National Disaster Management Authority, the provincial government and the Governor Imran Ismail requesting funds to provide essential equipment and ventilators to Karachi Metropolitan Corporation hospitals.[152] The Sindh government issued a circular directing private schools across the province to pay full salaries to its teachers on time the same day. Another directive was also declared for factories and other private entities operating in the province to disburse salaries to their employees by 31 March.[153]

Balochistan

The Balochistan Government constituted a 14-member technical committee in late January to tackle the outbreak.[154] All schools have been closed till 31 March. Balochistan Minister Sardar Yar Mohammad Rind stated that "action will be taken against schools that do not comply with the decision". Matric exams have also been postponed.[96][155] The province like others also requested for the army to be deployed.[140]

On 24 March, the Balochistan government imposed a complete lockdown in the entire province until 7 April. It included a complete ban on public getting out of their homes, all kinds of social and religious gatherings or any public or private event. All public and private offices were ordered closed. Exemptions included essential services such as personnel of hospitals, laboratories and medical stores, law enforcement agencies, people in need of urgent medical care with one attendant, one person per family going out to buy grocery and medicines within the vicinity of their residence and burials of people that had passed away. Only one person was allowed to travel in a private vehicle. Media personnel authorized by concerned media houses and newspaper hawkers were allowed to move freely as well. Public and private telecom companies, essential staff of banks with limited public dealing, defence-related manufacturing industries, food items manufacturing industries and distribution offices, grocery shops, petrol pumps and auto workshops and welfare organizations providing services were given permission to operate. Similar to Gilgit-Baltistan and Islamad, Section 144 was also enforced.[5] A state of emergency was imposed in five districts which bordered Iran on 24 March.[65]

Fumigation was done of the entire central jail of Quetta on 30 March, while spray pumps and disinfectants were distributed to 10 districts of the province.[77]

On 31 March, the provincial government released Rs500 million for upgrading, rehabilitation & establishment of Quarantine centres in the areas of Quetta, Chaman, Taftaan & other areas of Balochistan.[156]

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

The provincial Government has closed all educational institutes until 5 April and postponed all public gatherings until further notice as a preventive measure.[157][96] All inter-district public transport was banned for seven days on 22 March.[158]

On 24 March, the Peshawar High Court decided to shut down all courts in the province until March 28. Only essential staff were allowed to come to courts with no more than one official in the office.[159] On 27 March, screening teams were deputed at all district entry and exit points for screening of visitors of Covid-19 patients.[69]

The Chief Minister of the province Mahmood Khan announced on 26 March that the government had appointed at least 1,300 new doctors on contractual basis across the province to help stem the spread of coronavirus. The KP Public Service Commission also approved the recruitment of 635 more doctors to join the province's health force.[160]

On 29 March, the government approved a Rs32 billion stimulus economic package to provide relief to the masses and the business community amid the coronavirus crisis.[161] Provincial Information Minister Ajmal Wazir, announced at a press conference that the relief package include Rs11.4 billion benefiting 1.9 million deserving families, Rs3,000 would be given under the Ehsaas programme and Rs2,000 by the KP government. He added that the business community had also been exempted from taxes worth Rs5 billion and the provincial government had ramped up its testing capacity with 500 new diagnostics kits.[162]

Equipment and supplies including oxygen concentrators, cardiac monitors, infusion pumps, dialysis catheter and other PPE were distributed among all districts of the province on 30 March.[77]

On 31 March, measures were taken in the province for strengthening the prevention of the outbreak. A laboratory doubled its testing capacity.[163] Moreover, the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) dispatched 50,000 N95 masks to departments involved in the fight against coronavirus in the province. A total of 8,000 surgical kits and caps were also given to the health departments, along with 750 litres of sanitizers and 5,000 protective kits.[156]

Gilgit-Baltistan

On 12 March, the region's Government declared medical emergency in the province after more cases of were reported. Educational institutes were further closed until 5 April as a preventive measure.[164][96] Similar to Islamabad, Section 144 was also imposed on 21 March.[165]

The provincial government decided to put the entire region on lockdown for an indefinite period on 22 March and suspended intercity transport services. Para-military forces were also tasked to ensure the lockdown.[7]

On 27 March, the Chinese government handed medical equipments and 10 tonnes of other goods to the Gilgit-Baltistan government to help it fight Covid-19. The equipment included five ventilators, 2,000 N95 masks, 200,000 face masks, 2,000 testing kits and medical protective kits.[166] The same day, the government decided that all suspected travelers coming from the Taftan border would be tested for Covid-19.[69]

The local government announced that all education institutions would further remain closed till 5th April as a preventive measure.[77] On 31 March, the World Health Organization staff got involved in the regions's handling of the outbreak by providing support in terms of data management at district level.[163]

Azad Kashmir

On 14 March, the local Government declared a health emergency after a meeting of the National Security Council. It also announced closure of educational institutions until 6 April and secondary examinations were postponed. AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider also stated that screening mechanisms were installed at all 11 points of entry while quarantine facilities were being established in all 10 districts.[167] On 21 March, a suspension of all inter-provincial transport for three days was imposed. No public transport vehicles were allowed to either enter or leave the province. It warned that violators would be punished under the Epidemic Diseases Act.[168]

On 23 March, The AJK Prime Minister announced a 3-week lockdown for the region. Movement was restricted and special passes were issued for journalists and people travelling under inevitable circumstances while only one person from each family was allowed to go out to get food essentials.[6]

Two virology labs at Abbas Institute of Medical Sciences in Muzaffarabad started PCR testing for COVID-19 on 30 March.[77]

Islamabad

On 21 March, the city administration imposed Section 144 on the region for 15 days. All restaurants and shopping malls were ordered to be closed and violators could face legal consequences.[165] The local Union Council in the Bhara Kahu region was sealed after 11 suspected cases emerged from there on 23 March.[169]

On 25 March, the national government shut the outpatient departments of hospitals in the capital territory to stem the spread of the virus, only the emergency services remained optional. The capital's Deputy Commissioner, Hamza Shafqat issued a notification declaring 'a complete ban on intra-city, inter-district and inter-province movement of people by public transport. However, the metro bus service will be functional but at a distance of one seat between passengers.' Furthermore, gatherings of all kinds at public and private places were banned no one was allowed to move out of their respective union councils.[65]

Impact

Politics

On 22 March, Prime Minister Imran Khan urged the United States President Donald Trump to temporarily lift sanctions on Iran. He stated on Twitter, 'I want to appeal to President Trump on humanitarian grounds to lift the sanctions against Iran till the COVID-19 pandemic is over.'[170]

The same day, the Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi raised the issue of external debt faced by the country and how it should be relieved in repayment of loans on the phone with Heiko Maas, the German Foreign Minister. Qureshi reportedly told Maas that united efforts were required for dealing with the pandemic and that debt relief could help Pakistan in better handling of the outbreak in the country. He further stated that sanctions on Iran should be lifted immediately so it could utilise its own resources to fight the ongoing outbreak there. In response, Maas assured him that the issues would be raised at the forthcoming G7 meeting and the European Union Foreign Ministers’ Conference next week.[171] He also echoed the need to lift sanctions on Iran on calls with the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian[172] and the Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez[173] on 24 March.

Economy

Healthcare professionals

The federal government's economic relief package also benefited the healthcare professionals in the country. It was decided that if a doctor or a paramedic died while treating coronavirus patients, they would be considered martyrs and their families would receive the package that is given to martyrs.[117]

Making a landmark, the Pakistani Law enforcement presented the Guard of honour as a mark of respect from 27–29 March to the doctors and para medical staff fighting on the front lines of the global COVID-19 outbreak across the nation in Sukkur,[174] Quetta,[175] and Dera Islamil Khan.[176] The medical staff of a Mayo hospital in Lahore were given a guard of honor by the Lahore police for their efforts to help Pakistan fight the coronavirus pandemic.[177] Observing social distance (home-quarantined) citizens of Pakistan together with celebrities raised white flags on 27 March across Pakistan from their balconies, rooftops expressing love for the doctors and para-medics who are combating without fearing from the epidemic COVID-19 virus.[178]

The Government of Punjab announced a one-month honorarium for the healthcare workers at the end of March. This meant that in case a healthcare worker lost their life, a martyr package was included in the regional government's relief package. Medical professionals across the province were also provided with one-month additional salary in recognition of their services.[73][133]

Sport

Fears of the coronavirus disease spreading alarmed the Sindh provincial government, who announced on 13 March that remaining matches of the 2020 Pakistan Super League (PSL), scheduled in Karachi, would be played behind closed doors.[179][180][181] Similarly, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) offered international players participating in PSL to leave for their home countries (if they wish so), while PSL continues as per schedule.[182] 10 international players and one international staff member opted to leave the tournament.[183] The Final match in Lahore, was rescheduled to 18 March instead of 22 March.[184]

On 17 March 2020, the knockout fixtures (both Semi Finals and Final) of Pakistan Super League (PSL) were indefinitely postponed due to the sudden spike in coronavirus cases in Pakistan.[185][186]

After six years, when Pakistan Football Federation League returned, the matches were played before 16 March 2020. On 16 March 2020, the Pakistan Football Federation released a notification announcing that the matches were postponed.[citation needed]

The Federal Minister for Inter Provincial Coordination Dr. Fehmida Mirza on 30 March announced to create fund to cover all medical expenses of sports persons infected with COVID-19 in Pakistan.[120]

Religion

Cardinal Joseph Coutts of the Catholic Church implored the faithful to follow proper measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and encouraged interfaith solidarity amidst the pandemic:[187]

I also call upon my Christian brethren who would want to come to churches on Friday and Sunday to avoid large gatherings. In the end, the Almighty will reward you for your intentions. If we can’t go to a church, mosque or temple, we can pray or worship at home with our families, God shall hear us. We, the people of all faiths, should pray to God to save us from this plague.[187]

Statistics

The table and graphs below shows the confirmed COVID-19 cases as per the daily report published by the National Institute of Health. [c][2]

COVID-19 in Pakistan by Province and territory
Province or territory Cases Deaths Recoveries Active Cases Cases / 1M. People
845 11 6 828 2.936
743 9 58 676 8.625
276 8 19 249 2.525
169 1 17 151 10.612
187 2 4 181 44.210
9 0 0 9 0.247
62 0 3 59 24.635
Total 2291 31 107 2153 4.980
Last Updated 02/04/2020 05:24 UTC





Notes

  1. ^ This number is as reported by daily situation report published by the National Institute of Health at the beginning of the day. It reflects the total cases registered by the authority on previous day and hence does not constitute the current day's cases. It is needed here as the top official source of the country and also the cases reported by the tracker have differed compared to it before.
  2. ^ As of 23 March 2020.
  3. ^ The report is released at the start of the day and shows the confirmed cases, recoveries and deaths of the previous day. It is currently the most reliable and top source for the pandemic in the country. Any live trackers either of the govt and of various news media outlets have discrepancies in them and are not as efficient as the report making it redundant to edit the table according to them.

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