As the cases of deadly coronavirus rise sharply to 254 in Pakistan on March 17 and conflicting reports arise about country’s first fatality due to COVID-19, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that “virus will spread further”. According to officials, the Singh province is the worst-hit areas with 172 coronavirus cases, followed by Punjab by 26. Both Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan have 16 COVID-19 cases and Gilgit-Baltistan and Islamabad have reported 5 and 2 cases respectively.
According to media coordinator to Singh health minister, Meeran Yousuf, the total number of infections detected of the fatal virus rose to 172 in Singh province on March 17 and out of them, 134 are in Sukkar, 37 in Karachi and one in Hyderabad city. While addressing the country, Pakistan PM warned that the COVID-19 cases will spread further in the nation. He also claimed that at least 9,00,000 people have been tested at airports as government’s measures to combat the pandemic which has now spread to over 160 countries.
"I want to tell you that this virus will spread. As you have seen, it will spread, as it is spreading in the world and especially in countries that are far advance than us," he said in the televised speech.
Further explaining why the Pakistan government is not allowing to close down the cities, Imran Khan said that the move will significantly hit the poor in the country who will “die of hunger”. Instead, the country’s government has set up a National Coordination Committee which is reportedly supported by a core panel of medical experts to combat the drastic spread of COVID-19. The Pak PM also said that the government is planning to set up a separate committee to offset the economic impact of the fatal virus.
Meanwhile, conflicting statements about the first death due to COVID-19 infection in Pakistan have also surfaced. Earlier, Punjab Health Minister Yasmin Rashid had said in a news conference in Lahore that the country has witnessed the first fatality due to virus disease. Even the National Command and Control Centre also confirmed the death. According to the statement, the patient had arrived from Muscat on March 15 and was tested positive of the novel virus. He later died in Lahore’s Mayo Hospital after being admitted.
However, later, on the same day, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar rejected all the claims. He said in a tweet that the person had not died due to coronavirus. Meanwhile, the Pakistan Army has said that all medical facilities of the armed forces were "operationalised and geared up to meet any eventuality to deal with the pandemic".