ISLAMABAD: The Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan governments called out the Pakistan Army to help them in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, as the number of confirmed cases in the country crossed 600 on Sunday.
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar said he was calling in the military to help tackle the COVID-19 pandemic during the ongoing emergency situation. The army is being called out under Article 245.
"This is a time of emergency; we all need to face the challenge of this pandemic together," Buzdar said. He urged all the citizens to act responsibly and stay at home for the next two days as per the restrictions imposed for social distancing.
Punjab has entered a critical phase of local transmission of coronavirus, as 70 patients were confirmed in a single day on Sunday. Adding to Saturday’s tally of 152 patients, the total number of confirmed patients has reached 222. As many as 36 patients have been confirmed Covid-19 positive in Lahore, two in Rawalpindi, three each in Jhelum and Gujrat, four in Gujranwala, one in Multan, and 153 pilgrims, who hadarrived from Iran, were declared as coronavirus positive in a quarantine set up in Dera Ghazi Khan.
As many as 20 corona patients are in the process of being shifted to different hospitals in various districts after their confirmed diagnostic reports were received Sunday. On the other hand, the Balochistan government has written to the Ministry of Interior asking for the army deployment in the province to help contain the infection from spreading.
Earlier, an influx of Pakistani pilgrims from Iran through the Taftan border had led to the spread of virus in the country, despite that the patients had been quarantined at the border. The cases were confirmed when the said people were tested again in Sukkur and other parts of Sindh, including Larkana.
Separately, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah Sunday announced a province-wide lockdown in the province, effective midnight. "After 12am tonight [Sunday night], Sindh will undergo a lock-down," he said.
"People will not be allowed to venture out of their homes unnecessarily," Shah said, adding that if citizens needed to go to the hospital, only three persons would be allowed to travel in a car.
In an earlier statement issued after a meeting, the chief minister had said the government was taking this important decision in the interest of people and hoped that the public would support the government. The provincial authorities also sought army’s help to ensure compliance of its orders after people ignored the CM's appeal on Friday to stay indoors.
Sindh is struggling to contain the coronavirus as it has reported the highest number of coronavirus cases at 292.
“We are about to take major and difficult decisions for the safety of people,” Shah said, adding that the government was concerned about the welfare of the masses. Murad also directed the utility companies to provide relief to the masses.
The Quetta Electric Supply Company (QESCO), Sukkur Electric Power Company (SEPCO) and the K-Electric have been asked not to collect bills for the ongoing month from consumers whose monthly bill was less than Rs5,000 and charge the amount in installments over the next 10 months. The same instruction is for the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) as well. Consumers whose monthly bill was up to Rs2,000 should be allowed to pay the amount in 10 installments. The chief minister also said electricity and gas connections would not be disconnected in the next two months. Owners of home and shops were also asked to show flexibility in rent collection. The CM said he would request the federal government to ensure continuous supply of gas and fuel to power producers and gas distribution companies.