Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health urges citizens to adopt social distancing guidelines, warning of ‘strict lockdown’ otherwise
The Government of Pakistan will evaluate, after Eidul Fitr, the outcome of its decision to ease lockdown restrictions, announced Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza on Monday, warning that “strict” lockdowns could be re-imposed if the current trajectory of infections continues.
“Unfortunately, there is now this thinking among us that this disease [COVID-19] was only here till Eid, and that somehow it’ll disappear after Eid. This is a huge misunderstanding,” warned Mirza during a press briefing. “I want to warn Pakistanis that if you don’t take precautionary measures, this crisis could turn into a huge tragedy,” he added.
The de facto health minister lamented that the government’s instructions to adopt preventative measures designed to curb the spread of the virus were being willfully flouted. “As promised when we eased the lockdown, if this trend continues we may re-impose strict lockdowns after Eid,” he said.
This is not the first time the government has claimed it will re-impose lockdowns if the rate at which the coronavirus is currently spreading in the country continues. After each successive easing of lockdowns, authorities have warned that another lockdown is in the offing if cases continue to spike. This has not played out in practice.
Despite Mirza admitting that deaths and cases of COVID-19 were continuing to rise regardless of testing capacity, Prime Minister Imran Khan has repeatedly underplayed the threat, claiming in one recent press conference that the threat from coronavirus was “low” in Pakistan. He has also urged provincial administrations to ease lockdown restrictions against the advice of healthcare professionals, claiming the country is too poor to support sustained relief measures.
On Monday, Mirza said the only way to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus was by acting responsibly. “I urge the nation to act with extreme responsibility to curb the spread of the virus. The cases are rising very fast and we need to be careful, more than ever,” he warned.
He said that it was heartening that a huge majority of patients recover from COVID-19, adding that a majority of active cases in the country were mild and patients were quarantining at home. He requested them to stay at home and recuperate until they test negative.
“Unfortunately, there are 112 patients intubated in Pakistan right now. These patients are critically ill and are fighting for their lives at this very moment,” he said, warning that the number of patients in Pakistan who required critical care was also rising fast.
Mirza said the virus could only be curtailed by staying at home as much as possible, practicing social distancing, wearing masks and frequent hand washing.
Earlier, Mirza said the government was dedicating this Eid to frontline health workers, who are selflessly fighting this disease.
Pakistan on Tuesday reported that its confirmed cases of novel coronavirus had climbed to 57,705, with 1,197 deaths and 18,314 recoveries. There are currently 38,194 active cases of COVID-19 in the country.