Bilawal says govt reduced testing 'on purpose', questions claim of slowing virus cases

Updated 13 Jul 2020

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PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari addresses the media in Karachi on Monday. — DawnNewsTV
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari addresses the media in Karachi on Monday. — DawnNewsTV

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Monday accused the PTI government of putting the lives of people in danger by lowering Covid-19 testing capacity "on purpose" while refuting the claim that coronavirus cases in the country were going down.

Addressing a press conference in Karachi, the PPP chairman said Prime Minister Imran Khan and his ministers were "making a mockery" of themselves when they claimed that the graph of coronavirus cases was going down.

"If you stop testing, then the graph will [obviously] go down. But the same number of people will fall ill and die," Bilawal said.

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"They are putting the lives and the health of the people in danger. They are lowering testing capacity [...] this is a conspiracy against the people, they're not fooling anyone."

On the other hand, Bilawal claimed that Sindh was conducting the highest tests per capita and had the most intensive care unit (ICU) and high dependency unit (HDU) beds per capita.

"When the Centre was celebrating 100 days of battling the pandemic at the National Command and Control Centre, the Sindh health minister was inaugurating a 50-bed infectious diseases hospital in Karachi."

Earlier today, PPP's Central Information Secretary Nafisa Shah in a statement also said that a reduction in the number of coronavirus tests being conducted by the Centre should not be taken to mean that coronavirus cases in the country are decreasing.

Shah claimed there were crowds lining up at the country's hospitals and patients were facing difficulties. "People in the country have recovered but new cases are also emerging in large numbers." she said.

She warned that the federal government taking credit for a reduction in the number of cases by reducing testing could "prove to be destructive" and alleged that the Centre was making "misleading statements" in front of the country and international community.

During his presser, Bilawal also claimed that despite being given limited funds by the Centre, his party's government in Sindh had managed to provide relief to the people, frontline health workers and poor farmers affected by locusts by not allocating funds for new development schemes in the budget for the new fiscal year.

"The fiscal space that we created by doing this, we are spending it on protecting people's lives and providing them support during these tough times.

"The same steps should have been taken in other provinces. The Centre should have paused the Public Sector Development Programme and used that fiscal space to save the people's lives and health."

He maintained that the PPP's actions showed that it was committed to helping the people during this difficult time, claiming that Sindh was the only province offering free Covid-19 testing and treatment.

"If you need to get tested and don't have the money, we will do it for free. If you can't afford treatment for Covid-19, the government will provide it. We are the only province that has been doing this since day one."

The PPP chairman also dedicated a part of today's press conference to criticising the premier and the PTI for poor governance.

"The PTI has broken records of corruption. You can't spell the word corruption without PTI," he said, adding that government departments were being used to facilitate this.

'PPP wanted govt's Covid-19 strategy to fail'

Responding to Bilawal's presser, Communications Minister Murad Saeed said that the PPP was "upset" because the government's strategy on Covid-19 had proven to be successful.

They wanted to impose a lockdown to combat the virus from day one, as it was in "fashion", he said.

Communications Minister Murad Saeed said. — DawnNewsTV
Communications Minister Murad Saeed said. — DawnNewsTV

"But what is the world saying now? Oxfam is saying what Imran Khan said from day one: You have to save people from the virus and from hunger," he said, referencing a report by Oxfam stating poverty and hunger resulting from the pandemic could lead to more deaths than the disease.

"The PPP said no one dies from hunger, but the report contradicts that statement. When the premier introduced the concept of a 'smart lockdown', they made so much noise. Now the whole world is saying that 'smart lockdowns' are the only solution," he claimed.

They are upset because they wanted the economy to fail and the number of deaths to increase, he said, adding that under the government's Ehsaas programme, cash handouts were given to the people of Sindh.

"Instead of rejoicing in a win for Pakistan, they are upset because the economy wasn't destroyed and deaths didn't increase."

The minister went on to say the PPP government had failed to control virus spread in Sindh and could not implement a smart lockdown like in other parts of the country, where cases were going down.