Labourers, some wearing facemasks, sit on the pavement during a government-imposed lockdown as a preventive measure against the coronavirus in Rawalpindi on March 25. —  AFP

A month on, Pakistan's Covid-19 trajectory from patient zero to 1,000 and beyond

Pakistan reported its first coronavirus case on February 26; a month later, the national tally has crossed 1,000.
Published March 26, 2020

Pakistan reported its first coronavirus case on February 26. A month later, the national tally has crossed 1,000 and there have been eight deaths as provinces scramble to contain the spread of the pandemic, which first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan last year in December.

Cases in Pakistan

Initially, the cases reported in the country rose by single digit numbers. However, from March 15, the numbers started rising significantly as pilgrims from the Pakistan-Iran border at Taftan began arriving back into the country.

Over the past 10 days — from March 15 to March 25 — Pakistan's Covid-19 cases have jumped from 53 to 1,078.

The steepest rise in the number of cases was reported on March 19, as cases rose from 302 a day prior to 457.

Many have criticised the federal government for failing to take decisive action when pilgrims from Iran began filtering back, believing that their ineffectiveness in tackling the situation caused the number of cases in the country to skyrocket.

Read: Squalid Taftan quarantine camps present a sorry state of affairs

According to Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif, Pakistan's Covid-19 outbreak would never have progressed to this degree had the federal government ensured proper protocols and arrangements at the quarantine facility at Taftan.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has, meanwhile, has urged citizens to not panic, and advised them to self-isolate and avoid public gatherings.

Read: PM Imran hopeful Pakistan's 'hot and dry' weather will mitigate virus threat

"If we exercise discipline for the next month-and-a-half, and avoid going to public places, and if those showing symptoms self-quarantine, then the spread of the virus can be be controlled," the premier had said while speaking to senior journalists in Islamabad.

What's our provincial situation like?

By March 25, Sindh accounted for majority of Pakistan's cases, reporting 413 cases. The drastic jump seen in Pakistan's number between March 15 and March 16, was caused by Sindh, as the provincial numbers jumped from 25 to 150.

Another steep increase was witnessed on March 23 as cases rose from 333 a day earlier to 394.

Punjab, despite being the largest province, only accounted for 323 cases reported in Pakistan by March 25, possibly because it started testing later than other provinces.

Cases in the province started to rise by a significant amount from March 18, rising from 33 a day earlier to 83. The sharpest spike was witnessed on March 22 as cases rose from 152 to 225.

Khyber Pakhtunkwa, which had only 38 cases on March 23, had reported 121 cases on March 25.

So far the least number of cases have emerged from Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), having reported only 20 cases by March 25.

Lockdown or curfew?

Prime Minister Imran has repeatedly voiced his hesitation against declaring a national lockdown, stating that the economic implications of such a move would devastate the country and weigh heavy on the lives of labourers and daily-wage workers.

However, provinces — among them Sindh the first one to take charge — have taken their own steps to curb the spread of the virus.

Sindh — which has been lauded for its decisive measures — has imposed a complete lockdown, directing all shops, including grocery stores, to remain closed from 8pm to 8am.

Following suit, the Punjab government enforced a "partial lockdown" ordering all public and private offices to remain closed and suspending transport; Balochistan has also enforced the same and has sealed all malls, shops and business as well as banning public transport.

In addition, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has closed all government offices and banned inter-city transport while Azad Jammu and Kashmir has sealed all entry points and ordered all stores, apart from grocery shops and pharmacies, to remain shut.

Covid-19 numbers across the globe