ISLAMABAD: As the coronavirus death toll rose to six on Sunday with 799 confirmed cases across the country, the Punjab and Balochistan governments have requisitioned Pakistan Army’s assistance to ramp up civil administration’s efforts against the spread of the pandemic.

The Gilgit-Baltistan government confirmed to Dawn that Dr Usama Riaz, 29, lost his life while fighting coronavirus. He had been screening people entering Gilgit-Baltistan at the Juglote centre when he contracted the disease. He was put on a ventilator in the district headquarters hospital on Friday.

Similarly, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government in an official statement confirmed the death of a woman belonging to Parachinar.

Earlier, the Punjab home department wrote to the Ministry of Interior seeking requisition of army troops under Article 245 of the Constitution stating that there had been an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in the province that warrants taking all precautionary measures to face multifaceted challenges.

“Keeping in view the current and future situation, appropriate number of Pakistan Army troops may be requisitioned under Article 245 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” read the letter.

• Pandemic toll rises to six • Special corps commanders conference pledges to help civil administration with all troops, medical resources

Under Article 245 of the Constitution, the federal government can call armed forces to act in aid of civil power.

Also, the Balochistan government sought Pakistan Army’s assistance to control the situation. The provincial home and tribal affairs department in a letter requested the federal government to send troops for help. In the letter written to the Ministry of Interior, the Balochistan government stated that in the wake of growing wave of Covid-19 in the province, the services of Pakistan Army troops are required in aid of civil power.

The provincial government had already shut down all shopping malls, markets, hotel and restaurants and banned inter-city and inter-provincial transport.

Ban on sale of malaria drug

While announcing the measures that the federal government has taken in the wake of Covid-19 spread and the unfolding situation, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza said the government has banned the sale of medicine used for malaria without prescription, as people had started prophylactic treatment [preventive healthcare].

He told a press conference in Islamabad that the virus had already spread to 188 countries. He said over 300,000 persons had been infected with over 13,000 deaths. Of them, over 95,000 persons had also recovered, he added.

“There are 5,650 suspected cases in Pakistan. Of them, 1,604 were reported during the last 24 hours,” he said, adding that 646 confirmed cases were reported from across the country.

Transport, markets closure in KP

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government banned inter-districts public transport across the province for one week starting from March 23 and directed the relevant authorities to enforce closure of markets and shopping malls.

Two separate notifications were issued by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government for placing ban on inter-district public transport as well as closure of markets, shopping malls and restaurants. However, private vehicles and goods transportation have been exempted from the ban.

All major shopping markets gave a deserted look as traders also realized the importance of social distancing. District administrations in suburban localities arrested 91 people for violating the provincial government directives.

Mansoor Malik from Lahore, Ali Hazrat Bacha from Peshawar, Saleem Shahid from Quetta and Jamil Nagari from Gilgit also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2020