Punjab's health minister rules out 30-day lockdown.

Updated 03 Jun 2020

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Says the number of confirmed patients in Punjab is 27,850 and in the last 24 hours 1,610 people tested positive for Covid-19. — DawnNewsTV/File
Says the number of confirmed patients in Punjab is 27,850 and in the last 24 hours 1,610 people tested positive for Covid-19. — DawnNewsTV/File

LAHORE: Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid told reporters on Tuesday that the implementation on the recommendations of the Technical Working Group (TWG) for a 30-day lockdown was not possible because the Supreme Court had directed to relax it.

She said the TWG estimated the presence of 670,000 asymptomatic patients of Covid-19 in Lahore after a smart sampling project approved by the cabinet committee.

She said the number of confirmed patients in Punjab is 27,850 and in the last 24 hours 1,610 people tested positive for Covid-19.

A total of 7,116 people have recovered, while 540 people have died from the virus complications, of them 43 deaths occurred on Monday.

“Lahore is the worst affected district with 12,878 patients followed by Rawalpindi 2,255 patients, Gujranwala 1,435, Multan 1,220 and Faisalabad 1662 confirmed patients,” she said.

She said that Punjab conducted the highest number of contact tracing with 90,871 tests. Due to contact tracing, 4,887 more patients have been identified in Punjab.

The minister said as per guidelines of the World Health Organisations, the Contract Tracing has been intensified which will help control the spread of the virus. She said a lot of rumours about the facilities and resources in the public hospitals were being spread.

She said the number of available beds in Lahore was 539 but only critically ill patients were kept in hospitals.

She said the Cabinet Committee on Coronavirus advised the department to conduct tests in general population and the Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department constituted TWG to start smart sampling in entire Punjab with special focus on Lahore.

In order to conduct the smart sampling, People Institute for Global Health University, Center for Economic Research in Pakistan, Mahboobul Haq Centre for Economic Research in LUMS, Center for International Development Harvard University, London School of Economics Universities from Georgetown and Washington jointly worked with the Punjab government.

The researchers were asked to share a report by April 28, which said that out of 35,000 samples in Punjab, as many as 21,000 samples were taken from Lahore and an amount of Rs60 million was spent on the process.

“The sample results showed a ratio of 5.8 % positive patients in Lahore due to which the treatment facilities have been scaled up in Lahore,” Prof Rashid said. The number in the rest of the Punjab, however, is less than expected, she said.

The report shared by the Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department identified over 50 years of age group as the most vulnerable.

“Due to our financial situation, we cannot implement a lockdown forever and we will have to observe precautionary measures to control the pandemic,” she said.

Another research pointed out that by wearing masks, the transmission can be controlled by around 40 %, she said.

The world is facing a financial crisis and a number of airlines have gone bankrupt, she said.

She said that doctors, nurses and paramedics serving in coronavirus wards worked for six hours a week and then they are given a leave of 15 days.

“Punjab has currently 1,450 ventilators which are used for critically ill patients and no patient is refused any treatment or other facilities,” the health minister said.

Research on coronavirus is underway in the entire world but no one can give an exact date for a breakthrough or treatment. The decision of smart lockdown was made in view of the financial cost on the country.

“We hope that we will overcome this pandemic,” she said.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2020