Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday assured doctors and nurses to provide them necessary protective equipment to ensure their safety in the battle against coronavirus, as the number of the COVID-19 patients rose to 2,112 in the country.
The assurance came amid reports about shortages of protective gear for the medical staff and some doctors and nurses getting infected by the novel coronavirus that has killed over 43,000 people worldwide.
"Doctors, nurses and other medical staff are in the frontline of battle against coronavirus and they will be provided with the necessary protective equipment to ensure their safety and health," Khan said while inaugurating the upgradation of the Cantonment General Hospital in Rawalpindi.
Khan said that the trend of the pandemic in Pakistan would become clear in about a week. He said he was satisfied that the country was not seeing the sort of escalation of cases as seen in the Western countries.
He also said that China was providing protective equipment and ventilators to Pakistan on priority basis after controlling the virus in its own worst-affected Hubei province.
Meanwhile, the number of coronavirus cases in Pakistan rose to 2,112 on Wednesday, indicating an upward trend despite efforts by the government to contain the pandemic.
According to reports, Punjab province had 748 cases, Sindh 709, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa 253, Balochistan 158, Gilgit-Baltistan 184, Islamabad 54 and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir 6. So far, 26 people have died due to the virus and 82 have recovered, while another 10 are in critical condition.
The increase in the number of cases showed that there was little impact of the measures, including partial lockdown, taken so far to reduce the spread of the disease.
Officials in Pakistan are scrambling to contain the disease by appealing to the public to remain inside homes and go out only in cases of emergencies. But there was little impact on the masses and in several cities, people were seen roaming out while security officials were trying to convince them to go back to their places.
Prime Minister Khan has already announced Rs 1,200 billion package to deal with the economic challenges posed by the coronavirus crisis.
Addressing the media after the meeting of the National Core Committee, Minister for Planning Asad Umar said that it was decided to continue the current level of lockdown and restriction for another two weeks.
We decided to keep the restrictions until April 15, as we have seen it is helping to contain the virus, he said.
The Prime Minister's Adviser on National Security, Moeed Yusuf, said that the ban on international flights will be partially lifted from April 3 but domestic flights will remain suspended.
"It is decided that 17 flights will fly from April 3-11 from Pakistan to different countries and bring stranded Pakistanis, he said, adding that maximum 2,000 passengers would be brought to Pakistan.
The Prime Minister's Adviser on Heath, Dr Zafar Mirza, said that the implementation of the current restrictions will be improved as it was helping.
He said the number of suspected cases were 17,325 and 1,436 were added in the last 24 hours. Mirza said 8,893 people were in quarantine and out of them 5,190 were tested, and 19 per cent were positive.
Separately, Prime Minister Khan attended a live telethon to collect donations for his Corona Relief Fund that he launched this week. "People should generously donate funds and I assure you that your money will be used honestly, he said.
As Pakistan struggled to finance its efforts against the virus, Japan announced to give USD 2.16 million assistance to Islamabad. A sum of USD 1,620,000 will be provided to Pakistan through the United Nations Children's Fund and USD 540,000 through the International Organization for Migration.
Also, Sindh province has decided to impose a curfew-like' lockdown on Friday from 12 noon to 3pm in a bid to maintain social distancing at the time of weekly Friday prayers.
"Ulema (clerics) have been asked not to allow common people other than mosque staff to offer the prayer in their mosques, according to an official of the provincial government. Separately, registration for a volunteer force announced by Prime Minister Khan started on Wednesday.
"I want our youth to play their role in helping our fight against the COVID-19 by joining our Corona Tiger Force which will be organised to do jihad against the suffering caused by this pandemic, Khan said in a tweet.
Meanwhile, opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz criticized the government for failing to take timely action to contain the virus. This government has yet to decide if it wants to properly shut down the country or not. We demand that lockdown should be imposed without any further delay, PML-N leader and former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said.