Pakistan's tally rises to 640 after new cases are reported across the country; government suspends international passenger flights to Pakistan for 2 weeks
Updated Saturday Mar 21 2020
KARACHI / LAHORE / ISLAMABAD / PESHAWAR / QUETTA: The number of confirmed cases in Pakistan rose to 640 on Saturday after new cases were reported across all the provinces.
The province-wide break up of cases as of 12:45am, March 22, is as follows:
• Sindh: 292
• Punjab: 152
• Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 27
• Balochistan: 103
• Islamabad Capital Territory: 10
• Gilgit-Baltistan: 55
• AJK: 01
• Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 02
• Sindh: 01
Globally, 186 countries have been affected, more than 12,000 people have died and more than 300,00 infected by the disease as it spreads rapidly to new territories.
The epicentre of the outbreak has now shifted to Europe, especially Italy, which is recording a rapid rise in new cases and deaths 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
Maroon: All reports on new deaths in Pakistan
17 new coronavirus cases emerge in Punjab. According to the spokesperson for Primary and Secondary Health, the total number of infected persons has risen to 152 in the province.
12:45am — Karachi, Pakistan —Sindh health dept issues revised numbers of patients in province
In a late night notification, the Sindh health department released an updated list of coronavirus cases in the province.
The Sindh government spokesperson apologised, saying it was an error in tabulation that led to wrongly reported figures earlier.
According to the revised figures, the total number of cases in Sindh is 292 instead of the previously reported 396.
In Karachi, there are a total of 109 (including one death and three recoveries).
The Islamabad administration has imposed section 144 in the city for 15 days in a bid to contain the coronavirus from spreading.
Restaurants, shopping malls have been directed by the administration to close by 10pm. Medical stores, clinics and dispensaries will not be bound by section 144.
Grocery stores, bakeries, tandoors, milk shops, petrol pumps and meat shops will also not be affected by the imposition of the section.
Beauty parlours and barber shops have been ordered to close by 10pm.
A notification from the Governor House Sindh said that the official residence will remain closed for two weeks as a precautionary move against the coronavirus.
Officers and essential services personnel will continue to perform their duties at the official residence.
British media reported the deaths of 793 people in the country over the past 24 hours. This makes it the most number of recorded deaths around the world in a single day.
Italy has so far reported 4,285 deaths from the novel coronavirus. The situation looks grim or the European nation as 6,500 more have been diagnosed with the virus and the affected toll has climbed to 53,500.
Thirty-nine new coronavirus cases emerge in Sindh, taking the national toll of affected persons to 730 while the province's affected number rises to 396.
The Supreme Court in Lahore has announced precautionary measures against the coronavirus outbreak, asking only essential staffers to come to work.
According to the new measures, all employees aged 50 or above will work from home. All female employees have also been asked to stay at home.
Hearings of cases of an urgent nature will be held in Lahore and Karachi, otherwise all other cases have been delisted.
Cases scheduled for hearing by a three-member bench will only be dealt with in Islamabad.
The Health and Population Welfare Department of Sindh has provided the latest breakup of the total number of coronavirus cases in the province as well as Karachi.
According to the update, the total number of cases in Karachi is 107, including three recoveries and one death.
The total number of cases in the province is 357, out of which 255 are pilgrims under quarantine in Sukkur.
The prime minister's adviser on health, Dr Zafar Mirza has announced he is calling an emergency meeting of all head of departments at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences "to address all the important issues being faced by the medical staff and patients".
"Safety of health workforce is my first priority while responding to #coronavirus," he wrote.
Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah's adviser on law, Murtaza Wahab, has announced that it is "time for some tough decisions".
Wahab said that the chief minister has discussed with Sindh Governor Imran Ismail, Corps Commander Karachi, DG Rangers and IG Sindh "to ensure full implementation" of the government's decision to "keep people at their homes".
Without elaborating on how the decision will be enforced, Wahab has assured everyone that grocery and medical shops will remain open.
In a series of tweets, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has called on the federal government to "facilitate a lockdown" as the coronavirus outbreak sweeps across the country with full force.
"Pakistan must move towards a #lockdown. Every hour, every day that we delay is going to make dealing with the pandemic more difficult. We’re already late, should’ve done it earlier, need decisive action ASAP to mitigate this crisis now," he wrote.
The PPP chairman emphasised the need for cooperation among the governments, saying "no province can handle this alone".
Spain has reported a 32% spike in new deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the country total to 1,326 fatalities, the second highest in Europe after Italy, according to AFP.
The number of infections across the country also shot up to 24,926, the health ministry said in a statement.
The capital Madrid remains the hardest hit in the country, according to the tally reported by the ministry.
The new numbers follow a fresh spike in both deaths and infections on Friday.
Spain has issued lockdown orders for some 46 million people who are only permitted to leave their homes for essential work, food shopping, medical reasons or to walk the dog.
Italy is Europe´s worst affected country in terms of death toll, followed by Spain and France.
Finland has reported the country's first death from COVID-19, saying the outbreak was "moving to the next, more serious phase" in the country, according to AFP.
The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) did not give any details on the patient, other than saying the person was "elderly", living in the Helsinki area and had died on Friday.
"Finland's first coronavirus death is extremely unfortunate, but not unexpected," THL said in a statement, referring to the patients advanced age.
Health authorities reported 521 cases on Saturday, but only high-risk patients are being tested so health officials have said the number of infections in the country could be up to 30 times higher.
On Monday, Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced a state of emergency, under which the border has been closed to non-residents and public gatherings of more than 10 people banned.
Schools were closed but the measures loosened on Friday to allow children under 10 to attend.
The total number of cases in Gilgit-Baltistan rose to 55 from the previous total of 30, after 25 new cases were reported in the region.
According to the chief minister of Gilgit-Baltistan, the appointment of information department secretary Fida Hussain has especially been made and he will be the region's only verified source for information pertaining to coronavirus patients.
Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar, during a briefing, has confirmed that there 137 cases in the province.
Of these, 106 are in Dera Ghazi Khan, 20 in Lahore, 4 in Gujranwala, one in Rawalpindi, one in Multan and two in Jhelum
The Sindh health department spokesperson has confirmed that the number of total cases in the province now stands at 357.
The rise was reported after 89 more patients tested positive for the virus at the Sukkur quarantine facility.
With the increase in numbers, the total number of cases in Pakistan now stands at 632.
According to an update by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health department, the number of cases in the province has risen by 2 more to 27. One of the two new cases has history of foreign travel while the other "is a contact of previously confirmed case".
The spokesperson for the Aviation Division Abdul Sattar has confirmed that the government has banned the arrival of all international flights into the country till April 4.
The new rules will take effect from 8pm today.
Flights carrying diplomats and special cargo will be exempt from the rule. "All diplomats will have to undergo screening upon arrival at the airports," said the spokesperson.
The shrine of Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar will remain closed on Rajab 27 (Sunday evening), the Auqaf department has said.
Transport minister Awais Qadir Shah has dispelled rumours that coronavirus patients had left the quarantine premises in Sukkur to protest.
He said that a protest by healthcare workers had taken place within the quarantine area. According to camp management, patients had protested as well, but within the centre.
"All the people to have come in from Taftan are present within their respective blocks at the quarantine camp," said Shah in a conversation with Geo News.
He said that there were some complaints of medicines not being distributed on time which have since been resolved.
"I am overseeing all such matters myself. There are no more complaints at the camp."
Shah said appropriate measures have been put in place for the protection of healthcare workers at the camp. "We are under a lot of pressure and are strictly following the rules," he said.
The government of Pakistan will close its airspace for two weeks amid the global virus breakout, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Security Division and Strategic Policy Planning Moeed Yousaf announced on Saturday.
The decision will come into effect from Saturday night, 8pm, he said.
State Minister for Health Zafar Mirza on Saturday said the number of confirmed cases in the country were 534.
“Right now there are 534 cases in the country. There are 104 cases in Punjab, 267 in Sindh and 27 cases in KP,” Mirza said.
He added there were 103 cases in Balochistan, 30 cases in Giligit Baltistan and one reported case in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has risen by 2,705 within a day to reach 16,662, the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases said on Saturday.
It said a total of 47 people had died after testing positive, an increase of 16 from a tally of 31 published on Friday.
The global death toll from novel coronavirus jumped past 11,000 on Saturday, according to a Reuters tally.
More than 274,800 people have been infected by the virus across the world and 11,389 have died, with deaths in Italy surpassing the toll in China, where the outbreak began.
Iran's death toll from the coronavirus outbreak rose on Saturday by more than 100 to 1,556, and the total number of people infected now exceeds 20,000, a health ministry official said.
Iran, one of the countries most affected by the pandemic outside of China, reported the number of people diagnosed with the disease stood at 20,610.
The government of Balochistan on Saturday announced it had established a Rs1billion emergency virus fund.
“We are thankful to the Punjab government for announcing to give us Rs1billion,” provincial information minister Zahoor Buledi said.
“We are also thinking of turning hotels into quarantine centres,” he added.
Buledi added that this was not the time to do politics and everyone needed to work together. “We have to work together to combat the virus. We are working with the other provincial governments to combat the spread of the virus,” he added.
A US Embassy spokesperson on Saturday said an employee was currently being quarantined at the embassy premises.
“We are aware of reports of a COVID-19 case related to an Embassy Islamabad employee. Due to privacy concerns, we are not able to share additional information,” a US Embassy spokesperson said.
“We are aware of reports that a separate Embassy employee arrived at Islamabad airport on March 21 showing signs of illness. That employee is currently being evaluated,” the spokesperson said, adding they were coordinating with Pakistani authorities and implementing all appropriate measures to help control the spread of COVID-19.
Balochistan on Saturday reported 12 more cases, taking the provincial tally to 104, the provincial chief secretary confirmed.
This takes the number of confirmed cases in Pakistan to 531.
Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) on Saturday announced it was suspending all international flight operations from March 22 to March 28.
“All international flights from 8pm tonight (March 21) will be suspended for a week,” a PIA spokesperson said.
Cambridge Assessment International Education has cancelled all O and A-Level exams in Pakistan, a notification on Saturday said.
“Our priority is the safety of the students,” the statement said, adding that schools had the option to have their students take part in the October-November batch.
Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has directed the armed forces to speed up their assistance to the civilian administration.
"Protecting oneself from the coronavirus is actually the foundation of our collective response to the disease," Gen Bajwa has been quoted as saying.
"Every individual action we take is important. We need to be responsible citizens on an individual level so that the state is successful in overcoming this challenge.
"It is the duty of every Pakistan to follow the directives of the government and the health departments," Gen Bajwa has urged.
The provincial health department has identified 9 educational institutions in the city that are to be turned into quarantine facilities.
Five additional institutions will be turned into isolation centers, the health department has notified.
These facilities are to be used to house pilgrims coming in from Taftan.
1. Benazir School in Hazara Town to be turned into 50-bed quarantine.
2. Polytechnic Girls College in Sariab to be turned into 30-bed and Boys' College to be turned into 35-bed quarantine.
3. Tameer-e-nau College, Degree College to be turned into 35- and 25-bed quarantine facilities.
4. Girls College Marriabad to be turned into 40-bed isolation centre.
5. Tameer-e-Nau College on the Western Bypass to be turned in 35-bed, Girls College Cantt to be turned into 25-bed isolation center.
The authorities have issued proformas to track down passengers who arrived to Pakistan in the last two weeks and proceeded to their homes.
The Ministry of Health has issued a proforma track down passengers who arrived at different airports in the country from abroad.
The Punjab government is taking the following measures to expand its anti-coronavirus operation:
1. Releasing Rs8bn in additional funds.
2. Creating a 900-bed hospital at Expo Centre Lahore.
3. Working on an incentives package for doctors.
4. Working on a social safety net.
5. Shortlisted 8 hotels for an 880-bed quarantine.
6. Created quarantines at the district headquarters level in Gujrat, Faisalabad, Taxila and other districs.
7. Readied 3 hospitals for quarantine facilities.
8. Will provide a food package to all those quarantined, as well as their families.
9. Initiated a work-from home policy.
Co-founder and former executive chairman of Alibaba Group, Jack Ma has announced he will be donating medical equipment to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and other Asian countries to fight the pandemic.
Authorities in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have announced fresh restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
In Kazakhstan, where 52 cases have been confirmed, authorities said on Saturday they were closing all parks in Almaty, the country's biggest city, which was this week was put on lockdown along with capital city Nur-Sultan.
In Uzbekistan, with 33 confirmed cases, the government said late on Friday it was shutting down all entertainment venues and tea houses and banning large-scale wedding parties and other family ceremonies.
In Turkmenistan, which has so far reported no coronavirus cases, locals travelling to and from the capital, Ashgabat, said that officials at checkpoints installed around the city informed them that non-essential travel was banned.
Testing for coronavirus has been temporarily halted at Aga Khan, the hospital administration said on Saturday.
“No coronavirus tests will be done from 9am till 9pm due to lack of space,” the hospital added.
Here’s what Pakistani-American economist Dr Atif Mian suggests Pakistan needs to do to contain the coronavirus epidemic in Pakistan.
The KP Health Department will remain open due to the coronavirus outbreak, a notification from the department said.
All employees to be on duty Match 21, 22 and 23, the notification added.
A US diplomat tested positive for coronavirus symptoms at the Islamabad airport on Saturday, official documents by the health department revealed.
According to the documents, the diplomat had arrived in Islamabad from Doha.
Sources said the diplomat, instead of being shifted to a hospital, had been moved to an isolation ward at the American Embassy.
Sindh on Saturday reported 15 new cases taking the provincial tally to 267.
According to the Sindh Health Department, the new cases were reported in pilgrims from Taftan in Sukkur.
The number of confirmed cases in Pakistan now stands at 519.
Pakistan on Saturday opened its border with Afghanistan to allow crossing over of trucks carrying foodstuff and other goods under Afghan Transit Trade, Customs officials said.
In the first phase, 50 trucks with fresh fruits and vegetables entered Afghanistan after clearance from the Customs officials.
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday had directed authorities to open the Chaman-Spinboldak border ”to support Afghan brothers and sisters” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In time of crisis, we remain steadfast with Afghanistan,” the prime minister had said in a tweet.
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said it would be "premature" to postpone the Tokyo Games but admitted the body was "considering different scenarios" as the coronavirus pandemic advances.
The IOC will act on advice from its taskforce and the World Health Organization, Bach told the New York Times.
But he remained optimistic about holding the Tokyo Olympics on schedule from July 24 to August 9 and said there was no question of cancelling the Games altogether.
"Of course we are considering different scenarios, but we are contrary to many other sports organisations or professional leagues in that we are four-and-a-half months away from the Games," Bach said.
"For us, (postponement) would not be responsible now and it would be premature to start speculation or make a decision at a time when we do not have any recommendation from the task force," he added.
Thailand reported its largest daily increase in coronavirus infections on Saturday, with 89 new cases taking the national tally to 411.
Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a Public Health Ministry spokesman, said the new cases were linked to earlier infections from a boxing match, an entertainment complex and a religious gathering in neighbouring Malaysia.
Thailand has reported one death in the outbreak.
Coronavirus screening for domestic passengers has begun, a spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority said on Saturday.
The CAA official said that all the passengers will be checked for COVID-19 symptoms at the departure lounge.
New York and Illinois on Friday followed California in telling tens of millions of people to stay at home in the most sweeping measures the United States has taken so far to try to contain the coronavirus crisis.
The moves, which impact more than 70 million people or about a fifth of the US population, close all but essential businesses and require people to stay inside except for trips to grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and other “essential businesses.”
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said he planned to give similar orders shutting down all but essential businesses within the next 24 hours.
The four states where governors have banned or will soon ban non-essential businesses and ask residents to stay home account for about 30% of the US economy, the world’s biggest.
Karachiites were seen in full swing on the streets of metropolis on Saturday despite an appeal by the Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah to stay indoors and practice self-isolation.
"People should go into complete isolation for three days," Shah had said during the 23rd meeting of the provincial task force on coronavirus on Friday evenng. "It is important for people to remain inside their homes for themselves and other’s safety."
Sindh has reported the highest number of cases, 252 in the country.
Read more here.
China reported a record rise in imported coronavirus cases on Friday as expatriates returned home from the United States and Europe, sparking fears of a second wave of infections just as the country recovers from the initial outbreak.
All 41 of the new confirmed cases in China were imported from abroad, the country's National Health Commission said on Saturday, bringing the total number of such cases to 269.
Beijing and Shanghai were the main entry points for the returnees, many of whom are students who were studying abroad, according to official reports. They have come back after many education campuses in the United States and Europe shut down to stem rapidly rising infection rates there.
Also returning in a flight to safety were China-based expats, as businesses begin to reopen.
The total number of confirmed cases in mainland China stood at 81,008 at the end of Friday, the health authority said. The death toll was 3,255, up by seven, a much slower rate than at the height of the crisis.
A member of US Vice President Mike Pence's office has tested positive for the coronavirus but neither President Donald Trump nor Pence have had close contact with the individual, Pence's press secretary Katie Miller said in a statement on Friday.
Miller said Pence's office was notified on Friday evening about the positive test. The statement did not name the individual. "Further contact tracing is being conducted in accordance with CDC guidelines," she said, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Pence is leading the White House task force formed to combat the outbreak.
Read more here.
Prime Minister Imran in a briefing to the media has underscored that people will need to exercise self-discipline if the fight against COVID-19 has to be won by Pakistan.
"The fight will be won by the people, not the government. The delegation we met in China praised their people, who showed great self-discipline," said the premier.
He has reiterated the need for all Pakistanis to avoid socialising and self-isolate at home.
At least 10 doctors at the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital Karachi have been moved to isolation over the suspicion that they are infected with the novel coronavirus, which has so far affected 238 people in Sindh and 467 all over Pakistan — including three dead.
The medical facility's administration said the doctors in isolation have been referred to the screening department, following which they would likely undergo further tests.
The doctors have been advised to self-isolate at their homes.
Adviser to the Sindh chief minister on law, Senator Murtaza Wahab has shared images of the newly established quarantine centre at Karachi's Expo Centre.
The facility can accommodate 1,100 patients "as of now" and has been set up by the Army.
Wahab has urged all citizens to exercise caution and stay indoors so the "use of this facility doesn't come into play".
For March 20 coverage of coronavirus click here.
For March 19 coverage of coronavirus click here.
For March 18 coverage of coronavirus click here.