Govt to increase COVID-19 testing amid 26 deaths
Government restores goods transportation in all provinces
Statesman Report
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan reported at least three more deaths on Tuesday and over a hundred new cases, taking the tally to 1,876, as the federal government announced to ramp up testing from Wednesday in order to contain the novel coronavirus.
As of Tuesday evening, Punjab and Sindh have 658 and 627 cases, respectively, whereas Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have detected 158 and 221 cases each. Islamabad and Azad Kashmir/Gilgit-Baltistan regions have 58 and 154 cases, respectively.
A 74-year-old man died from the coronavirus in Sindh, with the provincial death toll from the disease rising to eight. The patient, a resident of Karachi, was brought to the hospital on March 26 where he was tested, the Sindh health minister said.
He had a history of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome and Diabetes.
Another death was of a 70-year-old patient who was tested for the coronavirus after he visited a hospital.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar said the country will able to test and 280,000 from April 1. By March 13, the capacity was 30,000 people. By April 15, he said this capacity will rise to 900,000.
Umar said that the National Coordination Committee and the National Command Centre, that began working from Tuesday, will not be partisan.
He said that an important thing that was discussed in the cabinet meeting was that citizens who test positive should not be treated as criminals by society. He said people would stop reporting out of fear.
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, whose province is worst-hit by the calamity, also claimed that his government would increase the testing capacity to better contain the virus.
The provincial health department has been told to increase their testing capacity for detecting COVID-19 cases, he said, adding that the department will be provided with all the resources. The chief minister added that the provincial government will also notify a committee for providing health professionals with safety kits and personal protective equipment.
Meanwhile, the federal government decided to restore the transportation of goods transport in all four provinces keeping in view the prevailing coronavirus situation.
Briefing journalists following the cabinet meeting, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said Prime Minister Imran Khan has asked Pakistan Rangers to remove all hurdles in the smooth flow of food goods transportation across the country.
It may be noted here that after the lockdown and partial lockdown across the country, the transporters have been facing hurdles. Karachi Goods Carrier (KGC) President Rana Muhammad Aslam had said the government had exempted goods transportation from lockdown, but basic facilities needed on highways were not being provided.
“Drivers are complaining of not having food and workshop facilities on highways.” Thus, he added there were chances that transport would be squeezed further. If the government wanted a smooth supply of eatables, it would have to ensure that the needed facilities were available along the highways, he had added.
The federal cabinet also approved the PM’s financial stimulus package to deal with the adverse impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the country’s economy.
The special assistant said the labour ministry has been directed to prepare a strategy of complete registration of labour class in consultation with all provinces to ensure their social, health and job security.
Special Assistant on Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar briefed the cabinet about the mechanism of cash transfer worth Rs150 billion to at least “12 million poor families” across the country under the Ehsaas Programme.
Special Assistant on National Health Services Dr Zafar Mirza informed the federal cabinet about the measures taken to contain the coronavirus pandemic and the decisions taken by the National Coordination Committee on coronavirus.
Firdous said the prime minister also directed to introduce reforms in the state institutions to promote e-governance.

Terming Sukuk bonds vital for the promotion of Islamic Banking, Firdous said the government has decided to issue the bonds for a period of three years.