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Pakistan: COVID-19 cases jump to 803

Country death toll from coronavirus pandemic rises to 6 after doctor lost live in northern Gilgit-Baltistan region

Islamuddin Sajid and Aamir Latif   | 23.03.2020
Pakistan: COVID-19 cases jump to 803

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI, Pakistan

With over 150 new coronavirus cases confirmed in the last 24 hours, the number of COVID-19 patients in Pakistan reached 803, officials said on Monday.

The death toll in the country also jumped to six after a doctor lost his life in the northern Gilgit-Baltistan region.

According to Federal Health Ministry, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in southern Sindh province rose to 352, Punjab province to 225, in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province to 31, western Balochistan province 108, Gilgit-Baltistan 71, the capital's Islamabad 15 while one case confirmed in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

Most of the new patients had recently returned from neighboring Iran.

So far, six patients have successfully recovered and discharged from the hospital, the ministry said.

Usama Riaz, a young doctor who treated coronavirus patients in Gilgit-Baltistan hospital, has died, raising the number of deaths in the country to six.

"GB Government declares Dr. Usama a national hero," the Information Ministry of the region tweeted.

All major markets, shopping malls, restaurants, and other public spots remained closed in most parts of southern Sindh, and southwestern Balochistan -- the two worst-hit provinces.

Authorities closed Karachi, and Sukkur airports suspending air travel between Sindh and rest of the country.

Law enforcing troops used containers and barbed wires to block the major roads in Karachi, the country's commercial capital, forcing the citizens to stay at homes.

The provincial governments of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Gilgit-Baltistan already announced partial lockdowns in their provinces and asked the public to remain in their homes.

The KP government has also declared an emergency and suspended all inter-district public transport for seven days starting on Monday.

Also in Islamabad, restaurants, coffee shops, cafes, and major malls have been closed.


Demand for complete lockdown

The country's political leaders demand the Prime Minister Imran Khan to impose complete lockdown to stop spreading of coronavirus in the country.

Opposition leader in the National Assembly and head of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Shehbaz Sharif, who arrived from London on Sunday, suggested Khan to impose lockdown.

"On the basis of my meetings with public health experts, party leaders & public feedback I am of the considered opinion that it has become essential that the govt imposes the lockdown to contain COVID-19. Any further delay in taking this vital decision has serious implications," Sharif tweeted.

But Khan opposed the suggestion of complete lockdown in the country of over 200 million people with a weak public healthcare system, as he believes it is almost impossible.

In a televised address to the nation on Sunday, Khan said as 25% of the country's population live below poverty line, their livelihoods would be adversely affected by a complete lockdown, which he called tantamount to a curfew.

"It would sow chaos in the country more perilous than coronavirus.

"The only thing that can save us from this pandemic is, stay at home. I’m sure my people will not disappoint me," he added.

Spread of COVID-19

The virus first emerged in Wuhan, China last December and has spread to at least 167 countries and territories.

The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a pandemic.

There are over 341,300 confirmed cases worldwide, with a death toll surpassing 14,700, while more than 98,800 have recovered, according to data compiled by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

China, Italy, Iran and Spain continue to be the worst-affected countries.

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