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Pakistan rush
A large number of people waiting in front of a bank in Sindh province without taking proper precautionary measures of keeping social distancing to prevent coronavirus spread.
Image Credit: APP

Dubai: More than 18 million Pakistanis have become jobless due to the lockdown imposed in tteh country to prevent coronavirus pandemic, said Asad Uma, Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms.

“According to calculations of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), around 70 million population of the country could fall below the poverty line in the current perspective,” Asad Umar said in a televised press briefing in Islamabad. Also, he feared that due to lockdown, over one million small businesses could be washed forever.

Umar who also chairs National Command and Operation Centre on coronavirus, said keeping in view the growing number of deaths in the country, people should adopt strict protective measures against COVID-19.

526 COVID-19 deaths

According to the official tally, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has risen to 22550 patients on Wednesday with 526 deaths while 6217 patients have recovered. “The average numbers and rate of infections are still far less when compared to the European countries and the United States,” said the minister.

International comparison

He pointed out that in Pakistan, the disease had not proved to be as chronic as in Europe and the US. Comparing death rate of various countries in 46 days after 100 deaths, the minister said in Spain 414 people out of one million populations died while in Italy the number was 405, 256 in France, 248 in UK and 116 in US while in Pakistan only two corona patients died out of one million populations.

On average, he said as compared to Pakistan, the US had 58 per cent more deaths, UK had 124 per cent more deaths while Spain had 207 more deaths.

Umar said there could be certain reasons behind low death rate in this region, adding that no one could claim to completely eradicate this disease.

He said every country was trying to flatten the curve to control the disease to a certain level. The minister said that the NCOC would share all these analysis about coronavirus in the meeting of National Coordination Committee to be chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“We do not follow the West blindly and the future decisions would also be taken according to our own ground realities,” he remarked.

Burden on healthcare system

About the question why the government was not opening up everything if it thought that the disease was not so dangerous, the minister said “We are not opening up everything because we do not want to put burden on health system”.

The NCC meeting, he said would be held before May 09 — the deadline of lockdown, where the decision about the lockdown would be taken keeping in view the analysis presented by NCOC.

We do not follow the West blindly and the future decisions would also be taken according to our own ground realities.

– Asad Umar, Minister of Planning, Development and Reforms

The minister said the government was facing huge economic loss due to the lockdown as only in April, it faced a loss of Rs119 billion.

“We have to run the course of government, health, education and other systems and also to provide relief to the poor with the help of this tax money,” he added.

Reduce food intake

Referring to a survey conducted by GALLUP Pakistan, he said every one person out of four said that they had to reduce quantity of food in their daily routine.

With respect to the current situation of health system, the minister informed that at present there were 5000 Intensive Care Units (ICU) available in the country out of which 1500 had been fixed for the corona patients while only 132 patients were admitted in the ICUS.

Similarly he said the country had 1400 ventilator and by June this year, the number would rise to 2000. He informed that at present 35 corona patients were on ventilators.

Increasing capacity

The minister said the government was also increasing capacity of health sector adding that today’s health system of the country was far better than that in pre-COVID days. He said presently the country had capacity of 20000 testes per day however number of tests were low due to some technical reasons.

The minister said Tracking, Testing and Quadrating (TTQ) strategy and mechanism was in place and its model was seen in ICT where two sectors were lockdown and gradually the lockdown had now reduced to 2-3 streets.

He said Europe has thousands of deaths and mostly have above 20,000 deaths but they were also relaxing lockdown to run their economies.

“The target is to prevent health care system from getting choked besides reducing hunger, poverty, unemployment due to COVID-19”, he added.

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