Updated Tuesday Mar 17 2020
KARACHI / LAHORE / ISLAMABAD / PESHAWAR / QUETTA: The number of confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Pakistan has risen to 179 after 126 new cases were reported on Monday.
Most of the cases were reported from Sindh, with the tally rising to 146 on Monday and 119 people testing positive for the virus in Sukkur.
Back on Sunday, Punjab had reported its first case, while the Sindh government had reported 18 new cases (13 from Sukkur and five from Karachi). One new case was also reported from Islamabad.
Globally, 158 countries have been affected, more than 6,500 people have died and more than 170,000 infected by the disease called 'COVID-19' as it spreads rapidly to new territories.
The epicentre of the outbreak has now shifted to Europe, which is recording a rapid rise in new cases every day.
Read on for the latest updates from Pakistan and around the world.
Disclaimer: There may be some discrepancy in the number of confirmed cases reported at the country level due to differences in figures quoted by federal and provincial authorities.
Geo News is constantly gathering fresh information from concerned authorities and striving to keep our readers up to date with the most accurate information available.
Orange: All general updates coming in from Pakistan
Red: All reports on new cases in Pakistan
The governments of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Monday announced rations for families of people who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Chief Minister Mahmood Khan has directed for ration packages — including 20 kilogrammes worth of flour, 10 kilos each of rice and sugar, a carton of one-litre milk, five kilos of pulses, and five boxes of tea — to be provided to the coronavirus affectees' families, a notification issued by the KP government's Relief Department read.
The provincial health department would collect information, including addresses, of the recipients and the relevant deputy commissioner would distribute the government's package. In this regard, records would be maintained by the home department as well.
On the other hand, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah directed for rations to be provided to the families of people kept in the isolation centre in Sukkur.
"Your breadwinners are in isolation, you must be worried about daily income," Shah said. "Don't worry about those in isolation centre; focus on your health instead."
The Sindh leadership would not let you go hungry, he added, stressing to the local government minister that the rations should be delivered to the pilgrims' residences without any media coverage.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Pakistan rose to 179 after a sharp increase in cases was reported among pilgrims who have recently returned from Iran via Taftan and were being quarantined in Sukkur.
The total number of confirmed cases in Sindh shot from 103 to 146 after 43 new cases were reported in Sukkur.
"This exponential increase is largely due to the recent inflow of ppl brought in from Taaftaan after a purported qurantine," Sindh government spokesperson Murtaza Wahab said.
The Sindh government on Monday considered closing restaurants and dhabas till 9:00pm, a spokesperson for province's chief minister said.
Murad Ali Shah further ordered a crackdown against people involved in selling Dettol, tissue papers, and sanitisers at a higher rate, he said.
The pandemic has spread to 162 of 195 countries in the world, a media report read Monday. More than 174,000 people have been infected and over 6,600 were dead.
On the other hand, more than 77,800 have recovered so far.
Tanzania, Somalia, Liberia, and Greenland recorded their first cases, whereas Bahrain and Cayman Islands registered their first coronavirus deaths.
In Spain, another 15 people died of the virus, bringing the total to 309. The total infections rose to 1,919 as 1,203 new cases were reported.
In the US, however, two new deaths were reported, bumping up the total to 70.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Auqaf Department on Monday issued preventive measures for the virus, according to which the Friday prayers would be offered in two shifts.
The authorities have advised that the congregation take place in open-air rather than the masjid's halls, the statement read.
The poor and children should be discouraged from coming to the masjid, it said, adding that the sunnat and nafl prayers be offered at home.
The Sindh government on Monday said it had established a coronavirus emergency centre in Sukkur, with nearly 2000 beds for coronavirus patients.
In a tweet, the government's health department said: "#SindhGovt has established #CoronavirusPandemic emergency care & cure center with isolation wards & approx 2000 beds at newly constructed Labour Colony flats in Sukkur."
The number of confirmed coronavirus infections in the Netherlands rose by 278 to 1,413, the National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) said on Monday, reported Reuters.
The death toll rose by four to 24 from Sunday, the RIVM said.
The Jewish faithful should refrain from kissing the stones of the Western Wall, the chief rabbi of the Jerusalem site said on Monday, adding to measures that religious authorities have taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, reported Reuters.
Jews pray en masse at the Western Wall and often stuff written prayers into the cracks between its stones. Kissing the wall is not a ritual requirement, but some devout Jews do so, believing it shows reverence to God.
The Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews are allowed to pray in Jerusalem, is revered as a remnant of the compound of the Second Temple, built by Herod the Great more than 2,000 years ago and destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
Last week, Israel’s Chief Rabbinate urged Jewish worshippers to stay away from the Western Wall due to coronavirus fears, but some Jews have continued to visit the site to pray.
“Do not kiss the Western Wall stones,” the site’s rabbi, Shmuel Rabinowitz, instructed Jews in a statement on Monday.
Muslim authorities on Sunday ordered the compound’s Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock shut until further notice and asked worshippers to pray instead in its outdoor spaces.
Israel has reported 255 confirmed cases of coronavirus to date, and there have been 39 cases in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. There have been no reported cases in the Gaza Strip.
Turkey on Monday suspended collective mosque prayers, including the important Friday prayer, until further notice to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, reported AFP.
"It is necessary to suspend collective prayers at mosques for a period," said Ali Erbas, the head of Turkey's religious affairs authority, Diyanet.
Around 90,000 mosques will, however, remain open to individuals who wish to pray individually, Erbas told reporters in Ankara.
Turkey has in recent days stepped up its measures to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, shutting schools and universities for a limited period.
The interior ministry on Sunday said nightclubs, bars, and discotheques would be "temporarily" closed from Monday.
Turkey has officially recorded 18 cases of the virus. On Sunday, thousands of pilgrims returning from Saudi Arabia were quarantined.
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said Monday not everyone needed to wear a mask after the province reported 104 coronavirus cases, making it the worst-hit one in the country.
"If a person has tested positive for the virus and he is in isolation why would he need to wear a mask," Shah said.
"We will not permit anyone to shut down general stores and pharmacies," he added.
Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal said Monday the provincial government was facing a severe shortage of ventilators and testing equipment.
In a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, he urged the federal government to provide the province with more kits and ventilators so they could cope with the pandemic.
Ziart's district administration on Monday advised tourists to not visit the valley amid coronavirus outbreak in the country.
The authorities advised against holding public gatherings and warned that action would be taken against those who went against the instructions.
Morocco ordered all mosques closed down amid the coronavirus fears, a statement from the government issued Monday read.
According to AP News, which cited a government official, the clinical trials for a vaccine to protect against the novel coronavirus pandemic were set to start on Monday, with the first participant to receive an experimental dose the same day.
The publication reported that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was funding the trial at at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle, US.
The trial would take at least a year to 18 months to fully validate any vaccine.
At least 30 new cases of the novel coronavirus were confirmed in Pakistan, bumping up the countrywide tally to 136.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Health Minister Taimur Khan Jhagra confirmed that 15 individuals in the province had been tested positive for coronavirus.
"Just received news that 15 of 19 individuals received in KP from Taftan have tested positive for Corona Virus. These are the first positive cases in KP," Jhagra said.
"They are being well looked after in quarantine in an isolated facility in DI Khan. More details soon," he added.
A spokesperson for the Sindh health department confirmed Monday evening that the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Sukkur had shot up to 76, while 26 were in Karachi and one in Hyderabad.
Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh chaired a meeting wherein the impact of coronavirus on the economy was analysed, a notification issued Monday read.
Predetermined targets for various ministries in the ongoing year were pondered upon during the meeting, the notification said, with the meeting agreeing to work together to achieve the goals.
Participants of the meeting also decided that the government would not let common people be hit by any potential economic damage from the coronavirus.
Officials of the Federal Board of Revenue, as well as the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Commerce, and Food Security, were also present in the meeting.
Punjab Chief Secretary Major (R) Azam Suleman during a meeting held Monday said the provincial had approved the purchase of 300 screenings kits and ventilators.
The screenings kits and ventilators would be distributed in all the hospitals throughout the province. The screenings kits would be used to identify cases of coronavirus.
All hospitals in Punjab have been ordered to remain alert, while senior hospitals were told to be on duty.
Punjab has only one confirmed case of the coronavirus, a spokesperson for the Primary & Secondary Health Care Department said Monday, adding that at least 28 individuals suspected of being infected with the virus had been put in isolation wards for monitoring.
The confirmed coronavirus case was being treated at Mayo Hospital in Lahore, the spokesperson noted.
At least three suspected cases were being monitored at Lahore's Mayo Hospital, Nishtar Hospital Multan, and the Recep Tayyip Erdogan Hospital (RTEH) in Muzaffargarh, each.
Another three suspected cases were being monitored in Faisalabad, two each in Gujrat and Lodhran, and one each in Sialkot, Gojra, Khushab, Okara, Jhelum, Sheikhupura, and Jhang.
The laboratory tests of 122 suspected cases had been carried out; of these, 83 people were discharged after their tests results were cleared, whereas the results of 28 were yet to be released.
Further, 10 suspected individuals had no symptoms during inspection and were therefore sent home immediately.
The scientists at the University of Punjab said Monday they have readied identification kits for coronavirus pandemic. The team of scientists was led by Professor Dr Muhammad Idrees.
Pakistan was provided a key relief by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Monday, according to which expenses undertaken by the government to counter the coronavirus will not be included in the fiscal deficit.
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh confirmed the development, revealing that the international money lender had agreed to not include the expenses incurred on battling the coronavirus in the fiscal deficit.
"The prime minister has tasked me deal with the economic impact [of the virus]," he was quoted as saying in a press release. "It will be [the government's efforts] to ensure that basic food items' prices don't increase or their supply is not disrupted."
He said that the government will try to ensure that the coronavirus outbreak does not lead to unemployment in the country.
Germany on Monday evening announced that it was halting flights from Iran and China over the coronavirus pandemic, Bild, a local tabloid newspaper, reported.
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Gulzar Ahmed has summoned an emergency meeting of the Judicial Policy Making Committee on Thursday, a notification issued Monday read.
The Thursday meeting would see important decisions being made regarding the courts' procedures amid coronavirus outbreak in the country.
The CJP would chair the meeting.
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said Monday the coronavirus cases in Pakistan would increase in the coming days but advised that there was no need to panic as the provincial government was taking action to contain the infection.
Addressing a press conference a few hours after Sindh reported its 76th case, he said: "The coronavirus cases will increase. However, it is not necessary that everyone has to be brought to the hospital."
The chief minister noted that at least 25 people who were diagnosed with the infection were undergoing treatment in various hospitals of the province.
"11 more people have tested positive for the coronavirus," Shah said. He lamented that "after shutting down schools, people went to Sea View" and that he could not "close everything, people also have to play their role".
Sindh's number of total confirmed cases of coronavirus rose to 88 after 52 more cases were reported. The provincial health department said 11 more people from Taftan have tested positive, while one more case emerged in Karachi.
The national tally, consequently, rose to 106.
Some 41 cases were confirmed earlier by Sindh CM's law adviser, Murtaza Wahab, in a tweet.
“More results have come in. So far 50 people who had arrived in Sukkur from Taftaan have tested positive, 25 at Karachi and 1 at Hyderabad. So the total patients have reached 76 in Sindh.
"Out of these 76 patients, 2 have recovered and the remaining 74 are being kept in isolation,” he said.
The Armenian government on Monday declared a state of emergency from March 16 until April 16 to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
Armenia has reported 30 coronavirus cases so far. One patient has recovered, and more than 300 people remain in quarantine, authorities say.
All educational institutions in the country are shut, while the borders with neighboring Georgia and Iran are closed.
Spain has registered nearly 1,000 new COVID-19 infections over the past 24 hours, raising the total number of cases to 8,744, the health ministry said on Monday.
Over the same period, the number of deaths rose by nine to 297, the ministry's emergencies coordinator Fernando Simon said. The figure for new cases was lower than weekend numbers, with 2,000 infections detected between Saturday and Sunday.
Iran said on Monday that the novel coronavirus had killed 129 more people, a new record high for a single day in one of the world's worst-hit countries.
"Our plea is that everyone take this virus seriously and in no way attempt to travel to any province," health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said in a televised news conference.
The latest deaths bring the overall toll to 853 fatalities since February 19, when the government announced Iran's first two deaths from the COVID-19 disease.
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday chaired a meeting of the government's economic team and took stock of the situation amid coronavirus outbreak in the country.
Ministry for food and security briefed the meeting on the availability of daily food items.
The prime minister directed the finance ministry to take all possible steps to ensure the availability of finances.
The situation is not such that we face the shortage of essential items, the PM said and directed the authorities to take appropriate steps in this regard.
President Dr Arif Alvi said Monday he was undertaking a two-day visit to China on the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping where he would express solidarity with the people of China who had fought the coronavirus epidemic.
Speaking to the media before his departure, Dr Alvi said China wished to thank Pakistan for expressing solidarity during the epidemic and the way Pakistan, as a brother, trusted them for taking care of the Pakistanis residing there.
“I am visiting China to express solidarity with the Chinese people and to express condolences over loss of lives,” he added.
"China has provided emergency assistance to Pakistan for #COVID19 prevention and control, including 12,000 test kits, 300,000 masks, 10,000 protective suits and 4 million U.S. dollars to build hospitals, according to ambassador Yao Jing," it said.
PM Imran Khan has ordered expediting all emergency measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
The National Coordination Committee on the Coronavirus is also going to consider closing off Sindh from the rest of Pakistan by sealing its interprovincial borders.
"All decisions taken [in NSC meeting] have to be implemented without exception," the prime minister ordered. "The nation needs to be updated and informed regarding the coronavirus on a daily basis."
"The public needs to be educated if we are to counter speculation and fake news," he said. "Every person will have to act responsibly in the days ahead."
"I will address the nation soon. We need to fight the coronavirus, not be scared by it."
Saudi Arabia has taken new measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, ordering the closure of beauty salons and parlours from today.
A total of 8,398 salons and 2,385 women's parlours will be affected by the decision.
A coronavirus task force has been formed by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government with the provincial chief minister in the chair.
The KP government has already initiated an awareness drive for the disease. Seventy buildings have also been identified to be turned into quarantine centres.
This animation from artist Mahrukh Rashid, shared on Instagram, is a healthy reminder to keep our hands clean at all times.
Remember: Soap is the best defense against the coronavirus — wash your hands with it for 20 seconds or more!
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday chaired a meeting of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) for COVID-19 and reviewed the measures taken by the government to curb the coronavirus epidemic.
Minister for Religious Affairs Noor-ul-Haq Qadri, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah, Adviser on Finance Hafeez Sheikh, Special Assistant on National Health Services Dr Zafar Mirza, Special Assistant on Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan, Special Assistant for Overseas Pakistanis Syed Zulfiqar Abbass Bukhari and others were present on the occasion.
All chief ministers also attended the meeting via video link and briefed the prime minister over the measures taken by provincial authorities.
Dr Zafar briefed the participants about the current situation in the country.
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday met religious scholar Maulana Tariq Jameel and requested him to play a role in reducing religious activities in the country in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Local authorities have reduced public dealing timings at the Karachi Civic Centre, Geo News reported.
Offices of Sindh Building Control Authority and Karachi Development Authority will only entertain the public till 2pm.
The Civil Aviation Authority on Monday issued fresh instructions to control the issue of overcrowding at the airports.
Under the new directives, non-essential persons will not be allowed to enter domestic and international arrival lounges.
The airports authorities have also been directed to remove benches in order to create more space.
Drivers will be restricted to the parking area.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan on Monday said the government has launched an awareness campaign with regard to the prevention, symptoms and treatment of the coronavirus.
Ayatollah Hashem Bathayi Golpayegani, 78, an important religious and political leader, has died after contracting the coronavirus. He had tested positive for the virus two days ago.
His passing takes the total deaths of Iranian government officials and politician, both sitting and former, from Covid-19 to 12. The countrywide toll is now 724 dead.
Another 13 have been infected and are either in quarantine or being treated.
A Bahraini woman has died from the novel coronavirus, the health ministry announced on Monday, marking the first death from the disease among Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) states.
The 65-year-old woman had pre-existing medical conditions, the ministry said on Twitter.
Nearly 1,000 cases of the virus have been recorded so far across the six GCC nations.
Most of those infected have been people returning from Iran, where more than 700 people had died in the outbreak by Sunday.
Exams of students from grade 1-8 will be held from June 1-15, 2020, after the results, school students will be promoted to next classes, Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani said on Monday.
The decision was announced by Ghani at a press conference.
"New academic year to begin on 1st June 2020 in Sindh. Schools are not to charge parents with advance fees, but only the regular monthly fees," Ghani said.
Ghani added that schools are not allowed to take advance fee and that parents should pay fee only a monthly basis.
According to the updated academic calendar:
- 9 and 10 exams will start from June 15 to June 30, 2020
- Results of 9 and 10 will be announced on August 15, 2020
- 11 and 12 classes exams will commence from July 6
- All exams (9, 10, 11 and 12) will be held in the afternoon
- 11 and 12 classes will start on August 1, 2020
- Results of class 12 will be announce on September 15, 2020
Five Valencia players and staff have tested positive for coronavirus, the club said in a statement.
According to BBC, Valencia and Argentina defender Ezequiel Garay became the first La Liga player to announce a positive test earlier on Sunday.
Later on Sunday, Valencia centre-back Eliaquim Mangala said he had tested positive and was self-isolating.
Turkey identified 12 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing its total to 18, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Monday, marking the highest daily rise since the country announced its first case last week.
Koca said two of the new cases were related to the first case reported in the country, seven had travelled from Europe and three from the United States.
Thousands of Muslims returning to Turkey from a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia were taken into quarantine on Sunday and the Interior Ministry said that bars and nightclubs will be closed from Monday to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza will brief Prime Minister Imran Khan on the coronavirus outbreak in the country in a meeting of the National Coordination Committee.
According to sources, Religious Affairs Minister Noor-ul-Haq Qadri will also be present in the meeting.
The Pakistan and Bangladesh cricket boards have decided to postpone the upcoming one-day international and Test in Karachi for a later date.
The Bangladesh men’s national cricket team was due to arrive in Karachi on March 29 to play an ODI on 1 April and the second ICC World Test Championship Test from April 5-9.
The Pakistan Cricket Board has also indefinitely postponed the Pakistan Cup one-day tournament, which was scheduled to start from March 25.
The number of confirmed cases rose to 76 in Sindh on Monday after more cases were reported in the province.
The news cases were confirmed by Sindh government spokesperson Murtaza Wahab in a tweet.
“More results have come in. So far 50 people who had arrived in Sukkur from Taftaan have tested positive, 25 at Karachi and 1 at Hyderabad. So the total patients have reached 76 in Sindh. Out of these 76 patients, 2 have recovered and the remaining 74 are being kept in isolation,” he said.
Punjab government has decided to convert hostels of public sector universities across the province into quarantine facilities, in case of any emergency, in order to keep potential carriers of the coronavirus in isolation, reported The News on Monday.
The directives came after Punjab reported its first case of coronavirus. The provincial authorities have stepped up efforts and imposed Section-144 on Sunday to contain the spread of COVID-19 that has affected more than 50 people across country.
Read more here.
Mainland China had 16 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on Sunday, the National Health Commission said on Monday, down from 20 a day earlier.
That brings the total number of confirmed cases in China so far to 80,860.
The death toll from the outbreak in China had reached 3,213 as of the end of Sunday, up by 14 from the previous day.
Quarantine centres will be set up Rajanpur, Jampur, Rojhan and Fazilpur, the chief executive health said.
At least 44 pilgrims from Taftan will be kept in the quarantine centres, he added.
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has ordered the closure of all shrines across the province.
According to government sources, all shrines will remain close for the next three weeks.
Karachi police on Sunday shut down big restaurants in the city to prevent the Spread of coronavirus.
Restaurants in Rashid Minhas Road, Gulistan-e-Johar, Fish Market and other areas were shut down, police said.
“We are not closing down small restaurants in the city at the moment,” police added.
Karachi police chief has cancelled the leaves of all police officers amid the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
The decision was taken in a high-level meeting chaired by the police chief.
The police chief also announced that extra force would be posted in jails. “Closure of wedding halls, festivals and markets should be strictly adhered to,” he said.
“Those hospitals which have isolation wards have been provided with security,” he added.
Religious Affairs Minister Noor-ul-Haq Qadri in his video message urged for the postponement of religious gatherings as the country grapples with the coronavirus outbreak.
Qadri also asked for shorter Friday sermons and urged the masses to offer sunnah prayers at homes.
The minister requested to postpone religious gatherings for the time being.
The provincial authorities have appealed to the general public to cooperate with the government to contain the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
“Public should avoid going to places with crowds,” the government said.
THUMBNAIL: A child wears a preventive face mask amid concern of coronavirus as his father drives a motorcycle in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, March 16, 2929. APP/Abid Zia; COVER: A woman wearing a facemask as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus walks on a street in Karachi, Pakistan, March 13, 2020. AFP/Asif Hassan