PM Imran Khan says imposing a lockdown will have drastic consequences on the economy; Sindh battens down with 15-day lockdown
Updated Sunday Mar 22 2020
KARACHI / LAHORE / ISLAMABAD / PESHAWAR / QUETTA: The number of confirmed cases in Pakistan rose to 761 on Saturday after new cases were reported across all the provinces.
The province-wide break up of cases as of 08:40pm, March 22, is as follows:
• Sindh: 333
• Punjab: 222
• Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 31
• Balochistan: 108
• Islamabad Capital Territory: 11
• Gilgit-Baltistan: 55
• AJK: 01
• Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 03
• 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
Drastic measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus in Sindh have now taken effect. As of 12:00am Monday morning, Pakistan Day, a blanket ban has been placed on 'unnecessary movement' throughout the province.
All offices, malls, restaurants and public spaces have been shut down. Restaurants have been told to cease all delivery and take away operations as well.
Karachi's Jinnah International Airport and the Sukkur airport will be shut down, beginning March 24, a NOTAM by the Civil Aviation Agency has said.
Both airports will cease to operate any local flights.
A ban on international flights to Pakistan is already in effect and will last till April 4.
Balochistan's health department spokesperson, Liaquat Shahwani, has confirmed the province's first death from the coronavirus.
The deceased was a 65-year-old man, under treatment at the Fatima Jinnah Chest Hospital, said Shahwani.
Rand Paul has become the first US senator to test positive for the new coronavirus, the Republican lawmaker's office has said.
Paul is asymptomatic, "feeling fine and is in quarantine," a staffer wrote on the senator's Twitter feed.
US senators are currently negotiating a multi-trillion-dollar rescue package to help the US economy hit hard by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will quarantine herself at home after being treated by a doctor who has since tested positive for the novel coronavirus, AFP reported, citing a government spokesman.
"The Chancellor has decided to quarantine herself immediately at home.
She will be tested regularly in the coming days...(and) fulfil her official business from home," Steffen Seibert said in a statement.
The doctor had visited Merkel on Friday to vaccinate her against the pneumococcus bacteria.
It could take some time to determine whether the chancellor is herself infected as "a test would not yet be fully conclusive," Seibert said.
Dubai carrier Emirates Airline has announced it will suspend all passenger flights from March 25 amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.
"By Wednesday 25 March, although we will still operate cargo flights, which remain busy, Emirates will have temporarily suspended all its passenger operations," the airline´s chairman and CEO Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum said in a statement.
"We continue to watch the situation closely, and as soon as things allow, we will reinstate our services."
Emirates passenger flights normally serve 159 destinations.
Italy's world-topping toll from the coronavirus pandemic has approached 5,500 after the Mediterranean country reported another 651 deaths.
The latest daily toll was smaller than Saturday's record 793 fatalities but still the second-highest registered during Italy's month-long crisis.
The number of new infections rose by 10.4% to 59,138.
Italy's death toll now stands at 5,476.
Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah's law adviser, Murtaza Wahab, has said that the province's fourth coronavirus patient has recovered.
Wahab said that the patient "recovered and tested negative twice".
He said that the news comes as a ray of hope "since the person was under home isolation".
According to the Sindh health department, the patient is a resident of Karachi.
Afghanistan has reported its first fatality due to the novel coronavirus, after a man died in the north of the impoverished and war-torn country.
Officials said the 40-year-old victim died in Balkh province, which borders Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, from complications stemming from the COVID-19 disease.
Khaliullah Hekmati, the health director for Balkh province, told AFP that the man had suffered other health problems including with his liver and kidney. He was brought to a hospital on Wednesday, but was not quarantined there.
"He died on Friday, his tests results came back positive today," Hekmati said.
"When we went to quarantine the family, they had already moved to an area under Taliban control."
The Taliban, who in the past have been repeatedly accused of murdering health workers, last week said they would not obstruct health organisations battling the coronavirus crisis.
Afghan health officials have so far reported 34 cases of the novel coronavirus, including 10 new cases Sunday that saw the first two confirmed infections in the densely populated capital Kabul.
Two foreign diplomats were also among the 10 new cases.
A Zimbabwe spokesman warned people against flocking to church on Sunday in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and even claimed that worshippers risked going to hell.
"A quick survey around town (in the capital Harare) shows a lot of religious activity above 100 people," government spokesman Nick Mangwana said on Twitter.
"Let's be responsible. All of us will die. And then go to hell," he said.
The government has banned gatherings of more than 100 people to ward off the spread of the new coronavirus.
PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari urges the federal government to review its decision to not impose a lockdown across the country, saying that a delay will increase difficulties for the poor.
In a video message hours before Sindh government imposes a province-wide lockdown, Bilawal says unity will help defeat the coronavirus, saying that it was important for people to stay home as the virus was spreading fast.
"This is war," he says. "We need your [masses] help. We need our friends in the media to help us. Strengthen our arms so we can help fight this disease," he added.
Bilawal urges the federal government to review its policy of not imposing a lockdown across the country, saying that "we all have to face this difficulty for 14 days".
He says that a delay will create more problems for the poor of the nation, referring to the prime minister's earlier address to the nation in which he said a countrywide lockdown will increase problems for the poor.
The Punjab government decides to suspend Metro Bus services in Multan and Rawalpindi for an indefinite period. A government spokesperson said that anti-germ disinfection will take place in all buses and wagons to thwart the coronavirus from spreading.
The Mayor of New York has raised alarm over the increase in the cases of the novel coronavirus. In a recent statement, the mayor says that April will be deadlier than March and May will be deadlier than April for New York.
"After 10 days, there will be severe shortage of medicines and ventilators in New York," said Mayor de Blasio.
French health minister Olivier Veran announced that the country's first medical staffer, a doctor, has died from the coronavirus.
France’s death toll rose to 112 from 562 according to latest figures obtained on Saturday. The number of confirmed cases in the country increased by 15% to 14,459 in 24 hours.
France is under a lockdown as the government continues to grapple with the novel coronavirus and its disastrous effects.
The Sindh government shares a detailed notification, clarifying that the lockdown will not effect personnel of Law Enforcement Agencies and medical staff appointed at hospitals, among other persons.
Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar's spokesperson Musarrat Jamshed Cheema has confirmed a rise in the province's number of coronavirus cases, taking the total to 222.
Of these, 153 are pilgrims, 36 are in Lahore, four in Gujranwala, three in Gujrat and Jhelum each, two in Rawalpindi and one in Multan.
The PML-N has reported that party president Shehbaz Sharif has offered the use of all hospitals belonging to the Sharif Group as quarantine centres.
The Balochistan health department has reported a rise in the number of cases by 4, taking the province's total to 108.
The Sindh health department has announced that the total number of cases in the province now number 333 after 18 new cases were reported from Karachi and 23 from Sukkur.
According to the health department spokesperson, of the 18 new cases in Karachi, 14 can be attributed to local transmission of the disease. The remaining four were tested positive after travelling to UK and Turkey.
The count for Karachi now stands at 127 (including one death and three recoveries). Of these, a total of 77 cases are said to be of local transmission.
The Pakistani Embassy in Rome has thanked Italian authorities for coming to the aid of 130 Pakistanis in Italy and helping them return to their homes in various cities across the country despite a complete lockdown.
In a briefing to the media, the prime minister's health advisor, Dr Zafar Mirza, has said that after media reports on the effectiveness of anti-malarial drug chloroquine to fend off COVID-19, experts' input is being sought by the government.
Dr Mirza said that there is a ban on the export of the raw materials needed to manufacture the drug and Pakistan has it in abundance.
"There is no concrete evidence right now that having the drug can protect one from the coronavirus," he warned.
Sindh Minister for Education Saeed Ghani has shared a vital resource for citizens to follow during the 15-day lockdown in the province.
A government of Sindh Twitter account (@19sindh) will provide all the necessary information and updates during this time.
Lockdown to begin at midnight March 23 (Sunday night)
To last 15 days
Carry your CNIC when you step out
Only one passenger per car allowed besides the driver; three people in total allowed if transporting a patient to the hospital
Banks will be open for a limited duration
All offices will remain closed
Places of worship will remain closed
Grocers and chemists will be open
Sindh minister Murtaza Wahab on Sunday said he would stay at home and urged the public to follow the instructions and stay indoors.
Sindh government on Sunday announced to impose lockdown in the province from tonight, minutes after Prime Minister Imran Khan said such extreme measures would crush the poor section of the society.
"After 12:00AM tonight [Sunday night] Sindh will undergo a lockdown," he said. "People will not be allowed to venture out of their homes unnecessarily."
The chief minister said that that if citizens needed to go to the hospital, only three persons will be allowed to travel in a car.
Prime Minister Imran Khan says imposing a lock down in the country will have drastic consequences on the national economy.
Speaking about the challenges faced by the country regarding the virus, the premier asked the masses to exercise discipline and self-quarantine.
"There's a debate going on in the country about extreme measures like a lockdown but we should not panic. We can't afford to impose a complete lockdown," said the premier.
"Twenty five per cent of our population live below the poverty line; how would they survive?"
Iran's death toll has reached 1,685 with 129 deaths in the past 24 hours, the health ministry's spokesman said Sunday, adding that the total number of infected people in Iran had reached 21,638.
"There were 1,028 new confirmed infected cases in the past 24 hours ... and 7,913 people have recovered," said Kianush Jahanpur.
Iran is the Middle Eastern country most affected by the coronavirus.
Cuntries can't simply lock down their societies to defeat coronavirus, the World Health Organisation's top emergency expert said on Sunday, adding that there need to be public health measures to avoid a resurgence of the virus later on.
"What we really need to focus on is finding those who are sick, those who have the virus, and isolate them, find their contacts and isolate them," Mike Ryan said in an interview on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.
"The danger right now with the lockdowns ... if we don't put in place the strong public health measures now, when those movement restrictions and lockdowns are lifted, the danger is the disease will jump back up."
Sindh High Court registrar has announced that the hearing of civil cases will be suspended for an indefinite period. He added that the district and high courts will only listen to criminal and bail seeking petitions.
The registrar also shared that they have instructed all female staff and those officials over the age of 50 to stay at home.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Sunday called Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and expressed his condolences over the loss of life in the country due to coronavirus.
Qureshi also lauded the Iranian people for bravely fighting the virus and appraised Zarif on the efforts taken by Pakistan to end the sanctions against Iran.
Qureshi also informed Zarif that he spoke to the German foreign minister for ending the sanctions against Iran. He added that Germany's top diplomat assured him that he would raise the issue with the European Union foreign minister.
K-Electric on Sunday said they would continue to provide an uninterrupted supply of power to high-alert hospitals in the city amid the coronavirus outbreak.
“We have postponed our maintained shutdown to ensure uninterrupted supply of power,” a KE spokesperson said.
High Commission of Pakistan Kuala Lumpur rescued 54 Pakistani passengers stranded at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Sunday after airlines refused to allow boarding in wake of restrictions on air travel to Pakistan.
“The situation became complicated as the passengers had already completed immigration formalities and were waiting for boarding,” the Pakistani High Commission said in a statement.
After securing the release from the airport around midnight, the stranded passengers were accommodated in a local hotel and provided meals, the HC added.
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar on Sunday said the government is seeking army’s help in combating the spread of virus in the province.
“We are requesting Pakistan Army’s help to aid the civil administration,” Buzdar announced while addressing a meeting.
“Our ministers are present in every district and are overlooking everything. We have issued special instructions to launch crackdown against those violating government orders,” Buzdar said.
The chief minister said this was an emergency and should be treated as one. “This is not the time to do politics,” he said.
The chief minister added that the finance minister has been tasked to develop a plan for social protection.
Prime Minister Imran Khan will address the nation today regarding the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
“PM Imran will speak about the challenges faced regarding the virus,” SAPM Firdous Ashiq Awan announced on Twitter.
As the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) believes China’s battle with the coronavirus offers a beacon of hope.
China has reported only one new local infection over the past four days, a seemingly remarkable turnaround given the chaos that surrounded the initial outbreak in the city of Wuhan.
While some experts caution against accepting Beijing’s figures at face value, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus insisted China’s success "provides hope for the rest of the world".
Is China's strategy to combat the virus a model for the world? Read more on this here.
Adviser to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister on Information Ajmal Wazir announced the country’s fourth death from the novel coronavirus on Sunday, as the nationwide tally of confirmed cases rose to 644.
While speaking to reporters, Wazir said that the test results of a woman who had arrived from Taftan and shifted to Dera Ismail Khan had come as positive today, making it the province's third coronavirus related death.
Wazir added inter-district transport will be suspended in the province for a week starting Monday, March 24.
“All shopping malls will remain closed in the province. Only shops selling pharmacies and groceries will remain open,” Wazir said, adding that restaurants will only be allowed to deliver food.
“These steps are being taken to save our public from the virus. I appeal to the public to cooperate with the government,” he added.
An important meeting under the chairmanship of Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah is underway.
The meeting is expected to announce major decisions regarding the coronavirus situation in the province.
Food, medical assistance has to be provided by the government. Services such as phone, utility, cable, phone and others will continue with any hindrance, the chief minister said.
The chief minister added the lockdown will be in the entire province. “HESCO, SEPCO, WASA, KWSB, SSGC and other departments need to provide their best services,” Shah said.
ATMs will remain open. Banks can call in their important staff, he added.
Afghanistan on Sunday reported 10 new cases of coronavirus as authorities restricted movement of civilians in the war-torn country, officials said.
The total number of positive cases rose to 34 on Sunday, Health Minister Ferzoddin Feroz said, adding two lawmakers were among the suspects and their samples have been sent for test.
Balochistan government has also requested the Centre for army’s deployment in the province.
In a letter written to the interior ministry on Saturday, the provincial authorities sought help from the army under Article (245).
The Philippines reported 73 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 380, the health ministry said on Sunday.
It also announced six more deaths related to coronavirus, bringing total fatalities to 25.
Colombia's health ministry late on Saturday confirmed the country's first death attributed to the coronavirus, as the disease continues to spread worldwide.
The victim was a 58-year-old man who worked as a taxi driver in the coastal city of Cartagena.
Colombia has so far recorded 210 cases of COVID-19.
Thailand reported 188 new coronavirus infections on Sunday, its largest daily increase, taking the total to 599 cases, a senior health official said.
The majority of the new infections are connected to a previous cluster of cases from a boxing stadium, Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a Public Health Ministry spokesman, told a news conference adding one patient had recovered.
"Most of the new cases were found in Bangkok and were among young people who continue to have social activities, which can lead to more infections," he said urging the public to stay home.
There has been one death in Thailand.
The Sindh government has requested the federal government for the deployment of military personnel in the province to ensure strict compliance of its orders.
The decision to seek army’s help was taken after the masses ignored the government’s appeal to stay indoors for three days.
“In the wake of the prevailing situation of the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in the province, the Province of Sindh requires the services of Armed Forces in aid of civil power under Article 245 of Constitution read with Section 131 (a) of Criminal Procedure Code. The details of the requirement will be communicated in due course after assessment in coordination with the quarters concerned,” the letter read.
“It is, therefore, requested to kindly accord approval for deployment of armed forces in aid to Civil Power in the Province of Sindh.”
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza will brief the media on the current coronavairus situation in the country at 12:30pm.
Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry on Sunday said he had tested negative for coronavirus.
"Just received my test report after staying in quarantine for 24-hours," Chaudhry announced on social media. "The wait was stressful but thanks to the Almighty that I tested negative."
Twelve trains will be suspended from today, a Railways spokesperson said.
“We have decided to attach 25 extra coaches in 24 trains from tomorrow,” the spokesperson said, adding, that 122 trains out of 132 were still operational.
The spokesperson added only passengers are allowed to be on the platform.
The district administration on Sunday seized 20,000 masks from a production unit from Punjab’s Bagrian area.
The district administration also arrested two suspects for selling fake sanitizers in the market.
The virus death toll soared to 12,725 worldwide as worst-hit Italy reported a one-day record number of deaths — nearly 800, with the country’s overall toll shooting past 4,800 — and Spain reported a 32 per cent spike in new deaths.
Nearly one billion people around the world were confined to their homes Saturday as US states implemented stay-at-home orders similar to those in Europe, and as deaths from the global coronavirus pandemic surged towards 13,000.
More than a third of Americans were adjusting to life in various phases of lockdown — including in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, three of the country’s most populous cities — with more states expected to ramp up restrictions.
New Jersey became the latest US state to restrict movement as the fast-spreading pandemic upends lives across the planet, closing businesses, shutting schools and forcing millions to work from home.
"This is a time of shared national sacrifice, but also a time to treasure our loved ones," US President Donald Trump told a press conference. "We’re going to have a great victory."
China on Sunday reported 46 new cases of coronavirus, the fourth straight day with an increase, with all but one of those cases imported from overseas, according to the country's National Health Commission.
While the number of domestic has drastically reduced in China, with just one case reported on Sunday, the country continues to see a steady rise in imported cases, mostly from Chinese people returning from abroad.
On Saturday, China reported 41 new coronavirus cases for the previous day, all of them imported. The latest figures bring China's total reported coronavirus cases to 81,054, with 3,261 deaths, including six on Saturday.
India launched a 14-hour long curfew on Sunday to limit the fast-spreading coronavirus epidemic in the country, where 315 people have so far been found to have contracted the disease.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an address to the nation last week urged citizens to stay indoors from 0130 GMT to 1530 GMT — a move that he said would be a crucial test for a country to assess its abilities to fight the pandemic.
"Let us all be a part of this curfew, which will add tremendous strength to the fight against the COVID-19 menace," Modi tweeted minutes before the curfew commenced. "The steps we take now will help in the times to come," he said in the tweet.
Several Indian states announced measures to curb the spread of coronavirus. Four cities in Modi's home state of Gujarat have declared a complete shutdown until March 25.
Republicans and Democrats in the US Senate on Saturday scrambled to complete a deal on a $1 trillion-plus bill aimed at stemming the coronavirus pandemic's economic fallout for workers, industries and small businesses.
But after a second day of marathon closed-door negotiations, there was no sign of an overarching deal between negotiators, despite Republicans' claims of bipartisan agreement on specific issues including unemployment insurance and small business assistance.
Combined with actions undertaken by the US Federal Reserve and the administration, the prospective bill would have a $2 trillion net impact on a US economy facing powerful headwind spawned by the outbreak, according to White House officials.
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.
Four new cases were reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Sunday taking the provincial total to 31.
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.
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.
For March 20 coronavirus updates click here.
For March 19 coronavirus updates click here.
For March 18 coronavirus updates click here.