KARACHI: Motorists make their way in a traffic jam alongside a market on Thursday.—AFP
KARACHI: Motorists make their way in a traffic jam alongside a market on Thursday.—AFP

ISLAMABAD: With the novel coronavirus rapidly spreading across the country, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said he was already aware that the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths would increase with the passage of time but smart lockdown was the only option for Pakistan to deal with the disease.

The country reported 6,321 Covid-19 cases and 92 deaths during the past 24 hours, taking the national tally of cases to 123,493 and fatalities to 2,409.

In his address to the nation, the prime minister said strict monitoring would be done to ensure that people follow standard operating procedures (SOPs), adding that the government would get tough on the violators. He warned of sealing all such premises that caused the spread of the deadly virus. He said the number of Covid-19 cases would increase if the masses did not take precautionary measures.

PM Khan alleged that the opposition wanted that more people were infected with the virus so that it would criticise the government and that was why the opposition leader came from London.

“I want to tell you that we did not bow to the pressure and did not enforce the lockdown similar to the one imposed in some other countries, including India. A survey has been published by the experts of University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago, etc, in which it is revealed that 84 per cent of the people in India have faced financial loss and 34pc households cannot meet their daily requirements without financial support. It also reveals that 30 million people have lost jobs but the elite class has not suffered due to Covid-19,” he said.

The prime minister said Pakistan survived because of opening of economy and distribution of cash amount among the poor. “I want to inform you that in Pakistan the number of deaths will increase in coming days, but in India patients are not getting beds in hospitals and now it [India] has also reached a conclusion that the lockdown is not a solution,” he added.

Mr Khan urged the masses to take precautionary measures as the country’s health system could not afford the burden of patients. “Now I will get the report about violations of SOPs and strict action will be taken against the violators. Shops, malls, factories and even residential areas will be closed/cordoned off in case of violations,” he warned.

The prime minister said healthcare providers were doing jihad and the government would introduce a special package for them. “Today we have the capacity to conduct 1.2 million tests in a month; initially, we had 2,800 ventilators, but now we have 4,800 vents and 1,400 more have been ordered. There were 600 ICU beds, but now we have 1,300. We are holding crash courses to train staff as we lack the trained staff to run the [ICU] beds,” he said.

Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif became the latest high-profile victim of Covid-19. Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa called the PML-N president to inquire after his health.

Pakistan Medical Association secretary general Dr Qaiser Sajjad, while talking to Dawn, said it was unfortunate that the government had now realised that strict action should be taken against the violators of SOPs. “We suggest that a strict lockdown should be enforced and special package should be announced for the healthcare providers who have been sacrificing their lives in the fight against Covid-19,” he said.

A meeting of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) was informed that 1,251 smart lockdowns were enforced across the country under the trace, test and quarantine (TTQ) mechanism and 212,900 people were socially disconnected.

Moreover, the highest number of 26,573 Covid-19 tests was conducted during the last 24 hours.

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2020