Province’s top health official urges citizens to follow social distancing guidelines and avoid all unnecessary travel and movement
If the Balochistan government does not implement a strict lockdown, it risks the total number of confirmed coronavirus in the province climbing to 1.1 million by the second week of July, warned Health Director-General Dr. Saleem Abro on Friday, as he urged citizens to avoid unnecessary travel and movement during the pandemic.
Addressing a press conference in Quetta, the top health official said that if people’s “non-serious attitude” toward the threat posed by COVID-19—which has seen citizens violating lockdown guidelines—continues, no one can predict how many people could die or require critical care in the months to come. “There could be more than 9.5 million cases in Balochistan by December if we don’t adopt precautionary measures,” he added.
“I am in contact with Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan since the outbreak, and the health department has received immediate funds in order to curb the contagious virus,” he said, claiming all necessary facilities, including personal protective gear, gloves, masks and hand sanitizers were available in all hospitals treating infected patients. “Our doctors, nurses and young doctors have all been performing their duties at Fatima Jinnah and Sheikh Zayed hospitals,” he added.
To a question on the lack of aggressive testing in Balochistan, Dr. Abro said the province currently had access to two PCR machines that were able to conduct 700-800 tests per day. However, he added, the National Disaster Management Authority had pledged to provide five more machines to increase the province’s testing capacity.
“The health department has established a 460-bed isolation ward inside BMC Hospital,” he said and urged people to avoid quarantining within their homes if they test positive, as it risks the virus spreading to their family members. He said the health department had advised a 15-20 day curfew in Balochistan to control the rapid spread of the deadly virus. Ten doctors who were infected with the virus have since recovered, he added.
Dr. Abro also urged religious and tribal elders to use their influence and persuade a full implementation of the lockdown, adding that the virus was most dangerous for people above the age of 60 and people with compromised immunities.
Balochistan has reported 1,876 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 24 deaths and 222 recoveries. It currently has 1,630 active cases of the virus.
On Friday, Balochistan spokesman Liaquat Shahwani told a private broadcaster that all markets in provincial capital Quetta would be allowed to operate between 3 a.m. and 4 p.m. from Saturday (today) due to the social distancing guidelines adopted by traders.
“We have converted the lockdown to a ‘smart’ lockdown,” he said, adding that restaurants, tailor shops and medical stores would be allowed to continue operating 24 hours a day, though restaurants would be required to provide takeaway or delivery service. “We were unable to implement a full lockdown, as traders and shopkeepers were not cooperating with us,” he added.