Pakistan may be heading for a two-week ‘overall lockdown’ over the coronavirus pandemic, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan hinted on Friday evening, as the number of positive cases continues to rise across the country. However, PM Imran Khan, in his interaction with prominent TV Anchors, telecast live on Friday evening and explained that ‘lockdown’ may be difficult to impose and may create other unimagined problems. However, media debate about a lockdown continues with important public figures calling for a ‘complete lockdown’ as an only real option.
For those who either think (i) the Corona threat is exaggerated & social distancing/lockdown is futile or (ii) its a choice between dying of #Covid_19 or of poverty, please read this. And someone please read this out to the geniuses running Pakistan. https://t.co/KwlHZZYnUR
— Babar Sattar (@Babar_Sattar) March 20, 2020
Can Pakistan close Shrines & Mosques for 15 days?
Even during PM’s briefing, prominent Anchorperson, Kashif Abbassi kept on telling the PM that without ‘total lockdown’ this situation can not be handled.
Moeed Pirzada, another TV anchor, however, reminded the PM that, even if a total lockdown not practical, daily public gatherings at mosques, shrines and religious places represent a ‘clear and present danger’ and while the government may not be able to shut down mosques (as has been done temporarily in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries in the Middle East) it still needs a communication strategy in local languages (Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Siraiki, Barohi and others) to make people understand that they must not visit places where it’s not possible to keep a ‘social distance’ of four feet from the other person.
What is Dr Firdous Ashiq saying?
Dr Firdous made her disclosures on Geo News programme ‘Naya Pakistan’ where she said the government was in the process of making important decisions regarding overseas Pakistanis and international flights. She mentioned Friday’s ‘Inter-Provincial Coordination Meeting’ in which Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah was also part of the meeting via video link. Apparently CM Sindh is in favour of more strict actions including lockdowns for some time.
According to the special assistant, the decisions will be announced by the Aviation and National Security Divisions.
Earlier in the day, Pakistan reported its third death from the coronavirus as the nationwide tally crossed 500. The total number of cases, on the other hand, in Sindh, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Islamabad Capital Territory, Gilgit-Baltistan, and AJK have risen to 252, 96, 23, 92, seven, 30, and one, respectively.
Coronavirus appears to be a single most terrifying challenge the world is dealing with. According to latest media reports, more than 10,000 people have died and more than 256,000 have been infected by COVID-19 as the disease spreads rapidly to new territories. The epicentre of the outbreak has now shifted to Europe, which is recording a rapid rise in new cases every day.
Alarming rate of increase in Pakistan. World wide lockdowns are being imposed yes it has a catastrophic impact on the economy but it is the safest way of dealing with this pandemic. Citizens needs to practice self isolation. Take this seriously. #WarAgainstVirus #lockdown pic.twitter.com/SXrI0ngjEL
— ƒв. (@MutePaper) March 21, 2020
Interestingly, amidst fear and anguish, the scientists at National University of Science and Technology (NUST) Attaur Rahman School of Applied Biosciences (ASAB) have successfully established Molecular Diagnostic Assays for the detection of a novel coronavirus, in collaboration with Wuhan Institute of Virology China, DZIF Germany, Columbia University USA and Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) Rawalpindi. These testing kits will cost one-fourth the current price for the kits used for detecting the COVID-19.
PM Imran Khan’s version
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday addressed a press conference on the coronavirus. He, however, said that his government will not lock down the country. Prime Minister ruled out a complete lockdown, saying that the federal government will not do the same as the economic impact will be disastrous.
He said that the government had shut down cinemas and barred people from gathering at public places. However, he said that the federal government was not in favour of lockdown as its effects will prove difficult for the poor.
PM Imran said that Italy and other countries that had imposed a lockdown could so as their per capita income was higher than Pakistan’s. He said that it was important to keep the economy afloat and at the same time, keep people safe from the pandemic.
The prime minister said that his government will not ‘censor’ anything from the masses, saying that if authorities were not transparent on cases emerging throughout the country, then it will be difficult to treat them.
PM Imran expressed disappointment over fingers being pointed at Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan for the spread of the virus from Taftan. He said that the government had been in contact with Chinese authorities ever since the virus broke out in Wuhan late last year.
The premier said that it will be very difficult to treat the elderly or those suffering from ailments if there was a spike in coronavirus patients. He cited the example of Italy where hospitals were running short of ventilators owing to the emergence of increasing coronavirus patients.
Social Distancing Important: PM
The prime minister said that social distancing was “very important” to contain the virus, advising people not to go to public places. “The best thing you can do is self-quarantine instead of going to hospitals,” he said. “Practice self-isolation rather than going to hospitals. Stay at home if you demonstrate symptoms and keep away from the elderly,” he said.
It is yet to be seen whether the Government of Pakistan will be able to ensure a complete lockdown as many western countries – including Britain, France, Italy and Spain – are attempting. However it’s obvious that it’s coming under increased pressure from experts and public figures for taking more extreme measures -and a lockdown can not be ruled out.