• Active Covid cases cross 50,000 mark for a third time
• PM rules out general lockdown
• Sindh CM seeks ban on inter-provincial travel
ISLAMABAD: As the number of active cases crossed the 50,000 mark for the third time since the pandemic started in February last year, Pakistan on Wednesday received 560,000 more doses of Covid-19 vaccine from China.
Another consignment of 500,000 doses is set to arrive on Thursday (today) after which the number of doses received from China will surpass the figure of 2.5 million.
While Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday ruled out a general lockdown in the country, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah suggested a ban on inter-provincial travel to break the chain of the dreaded virus.
Data released by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) showed that 4,757 people contracted coronavirus and 78 lost their lives over the past 24 hours. The number of active cases reached 50,397. As many as 3,912 patients were admitted to hospital across the country and 412 ventilators were in use.
During the first wave of Covid-19 the number of active cases surpassed the figure of 50,000 in June 2020. It later started decreasing and finally dropped to less than 6,000 in September last year. The cases again started increasing during the second wave in October and surpassed the 50,000 mark in December last year.
The number of cases again started decreasing and reached 16,000 in February this year. The cases again started increasing due to which the third wave was declared and on March 31 the number surpassed the figure of 50,000 for the third time.
As many as 560,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine arrived in Pakistan from China on Wednesday and another consignment of 500,000 doses is set to reach on Thursday.
The vaccine was received by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan at Noor Khan Airbase.
Spokesperson for the Ministry of Health Sajid Shah, while talking to Dawn, said it was the first consignment of procured vaccine. “There are 500,000 doses of Sinopharm and 60,000 doses of Cansino Bio vaccine. We will receive 500,000 more doses of Sinopharm from China on Thursday,” he said.
China had earlier donated 1.5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine.
Dr Sultan said Pakistan was thankful to China which always supported through thick and thin. “It is the job of the government to save the lives of people and it will ensure uninterrupted supply of vaccine,” he added.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Khan on Wednesday ruled out a general lockdown while acknowledging that the country was going through a third wave of the pandemic.
“We have to adopt a balanced policy where the spread of the virus can be prevented and where the poor man and the country’s economy are least affected,” Mr Khan told a national coordinating committee meeting.
He said he would direct the government to reinforce the mask mandates.
Inter-provincial travel ban Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah suggested that the federal government should impose a ban on inter-provincial travel to break the chain of the dreaded virus.
Talking to media persons after appearing before an accountability court in Islamabad in connection with fake bank accounts case, Mr Shah said the prime minister had called a meeting of the NCOC, but he was not timely conveyed. He said he was informed about the meeting through phone call on Wednesday and, therefore, it was not possible for him to attend it as he had to attend the court proceedings.
The chief minister said that despite resistance from the Centre, the Sindh government had decided to go for a lockdown. He said that while other countries were swiftly vaccinating their citizens, it was being done in Pakistan with a snail’s pace. According to him, Pakistan is entering into the crisis, while other countries have overcome this.
Mr Shah said Pakistan’s economy was worst in the entire region, adding that the finance minister had been sacked and the government itself accused him of causing inflation.
He said the Sindh government had allocated funds for procurement of Covid-19 vaccine. He stressed the need for devising an effective strategy to combat coronavirus.
The chief minister appeared before the accountability court in connection with a NAB reference related to misuse of authority and award of contracts without feasibility which caused a loss of Rs8 billion to the national exchequer.
The reference, an offshoot of the fake bank accounts case, accused CM Shah of using his influence and releasing funds for Nooriabad power plant in violation of rules.
The chief minister contended that the plant was producing electricity at cheaper rates and still in working condition and the people of Karachi were getting electricity through this power plant.
The NAB prosecutor requested the court to issue arrest warrants for those who absented themselves from the court proceedings.
CM Shah said he did not receive the court’s summons and learnt about this case through media reports.
The defence counsel asked accountability judge Syed Asghar Ali to repeat the summons to all the accused persons.
Subsequently, the court adjourned the hearing till April 19.
Malik Asad also contributed to this story
Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2021