ISLAMABAD: The trajectory of Covid-19 infections spiked sharply on Friday as the country registered a record number of daily cases with Sindh surpassing Punjab’s tally for the first time.

Till recently, Sindh was leading all provinces in the number of tests being conducted on a daily basis, while Punjab’s tally of daily tests decreased in the last week of April.

The number of cases in Karachi now constitutes nearly a quarter of the country’s total tally. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said at a press briefing that the province had registered 622 cases over the past 24 hours, of which 446 were from Karachi.

According to Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Zafar Mirza, 990 Covid-19 cases were reported in the country over the past 24 hours — 398 in Sindh, 289 in Punjab, 246 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 71 in Baluchistan, 30 in Islamabad and six in Gilgit-Baltistan. No case was reported from Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The total positive cases in the country have reached nearly 18,000.

“So far 182,000 coronavirus tests have been conducted which showed an upward trend of the disease as 990 cases were reported during the last 24 hours,” the SAPM added.

Number of cases in Karachi now constitutes nearly a quarter of the country’s total infections

He said that 24 people died of Covid-19 over the past 24 hours, including six in Sindh, adding that 42,000 tests had been carried out of those in quarantines and 14 per cent of them were found positive.

The increase in the daily tally of infections comes at a time when the federal government is going to further ease the lockdown and moving towards opening of more industries and businesses.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Imran Khan said ‘elites’ had decided to opt for lockdowns and the financially weaker segments of society were suffering because of these closures. He had also said the number of infections in the country was lower than what had been projected.

Doctors’ associations have criticised the federal government’s decision to allow congregations in mosques during Ramazan, saying this could lead to swift spread of the deadly virus that would be very difficult to control.

However, Dr Mirza once again said the government was going to further ease lockdown in the country by keeping a balance between economic activities and what he called smart lockdown.

“The smart lockdown will be successful only if people will follow standard operating procedures devised by the government for different sectors,” he said, adding that people had to maintain social distancing even when more businesses were opened.

The SAPM contradicted reports suggesting that the health ministry had expressed concern over procurement being made by the National Disaster Management Authority and said the media should avoid speculations.

He said the government was making arrangements in collaboration with China University of Hong Kong for training of doctors and paramedics performing duties in intensive care units (ICUs).

Meanwhile, Sindh CM Shah said 622 new cases and six deaths were reported in the province over the past 24 hours, taking tally of coronavirus deaths in the province to 118. He said a total of 57,761 tests had been conducted of which 6,675 were found positive, while 1,295 patients had recovered.

The chief minister said three flights carrying 483 passengers had landed in Karachi on April 28 and 29. All the passengers underwent Covid-19 tests and 40 per cent of them (190) were found positive — 92 belonging to Sindh, 52 to Punjab, 24 to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 18 to Balochistan.

Earlier, sources close to National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaisar, who tested positive for Covid-19, told Dawn that some cabinet members and senior leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf were quite worried as they recently met him.

A few days ago the speaker had also met Prime Minister Khan and apprised him of a meeting held at his residence to discuss the National Accountability Ordinance, 2020, which lapsed this week.

The meeting was attended by some senior cabinet members some of whom are considering undergoing Covid-19 tests. A member of the cabinet, who did not want to be named, told Dawn that he had contacted some of his colleagues who had attended the meeting and they were worried.

The prominent among those who attended the meeting were Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah and SAPM on Accountability Shahzad Akbar.

Some of the Speaker’s Office staffers are also considering getting themselves tested. Two National Assembly employees have already tested positive.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2020

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