‘Essential’ industries and services to continue, while domestic flights to remain suspended
The movement “restrictions” imposed by provincial governments across Pakistan to maintain social distancing and curb the spread of the novel coronavirus have been extended until April 14, Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar said on Wednesday.
Addressing a press conference alongside Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza and Special Assistant to the P.M. on National Security Moeed Yusuf, Umar said the decision to extend the restrictions—which the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf considers a more suitable term than ‘lockdown’—had been taken during a meeting of the National Coordination Committee on COVID-19.
“The meetings of the NCC will be held regularly before April 14 to review the situation,” Umar said, adding that this would not impact “essential” industries such as food, medicine, and power, which are “crucial” for the citizenry. “These restrictions will bear fruit only if basic necessities are being provided to the people […] the federal and provincial governments are on same page in this regard,” he said, adding goods transport would also remain unhampered.
Referring to the ongoing ban on air travel, Umar said this would be relaxed in a phase-wise manner. “On April 4, the first flight will arrive in Islamabad via Pakistan International Airlines. Passengers will be tested and they will be kept in quarantine until their results have been received,” he said, adding that even those who tested negative would be asked to self-quarantine and take necessary precautionary measures.
“On April 5, we will review this measure of bringing people in from abroad,” said Umar. “If it is successful then flights will resume in different airports of the country,” he said, noting that domestic flights would continue to remain suspended until noted otherwise.
Dr. Mirza, meanwhile, told journalists that extension to the movement restrictions did not mean people could relax about social distancing. “If we make the restrictions more stern then it will yield better results,” he said, adding that preventative measures must continue.
Referring to the prevailing situation in Pakistan, the de facto health minister said the total number of suspected cases currently in Pakistan were 17,331—1,436 of whom were identified in the past 24 hours. “The surge is high,” he said. “The average increase per day is 12 percent.”
According to Mirza, there are currently 2,049 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Pakistan right now, having increased by 178 in the past 24 hours. “Total number of people who have recovered is 82, while 10 are in critical position,” he said, adding that over 8,800 people were in quarantine.
Yusuf, meanwhile, said that the government would arrange for special PIA flights from April 3-11 to bring back Pakistanis stranded in foreign countries. “The biggest concern of ours is testing the people coming in to the country. The technical staff has said that we can bring in 2,000 passengers right now,” he said.