Pak suspends domestic flights as coronavirus cases cross 1,000

Islamabad, Mar 25 (PTI): Pakistan has suspended all domestic flight operations until April 2 to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus after the country reported over 1,000 cases and seven deaths from the COVID-19 infection, authorities said on Wednesday.
The nationwide tally of COVID-19 patients touched 1,037 with 413 cases in Sindh; 115 in Balochistan; 296 in Punjab; 117 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; 80 in Gilgit-Baltistan; 15 in Islamabad and one in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, The Express Tribune reported.
The National Disaster Management Authority has said that so far seven people have died due to the coronavirus and 18 recovered.
In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the country has halted its domestic flights operations.
Abdul Sattar Khokhar, the spokesman of Aviation Division, said that the decision was part of ongoing efforts to contain the deadly coronavirus.
The ban will be effective from Thursday, Khokhar said.
According to a statement on the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority’s website on Tuesday, the government has “decided to suspend all types of domestic scheduled/non-scheduled, chartered and private aircraft passenger flight operations with effect from Thursday, March 26, at 6:00am up to April 02, 2020.”
Pakistan has already suspended international flights this week. However, cargo flights are exempted from the flight suspension ban.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said that the homegrown cases of coronavirus were very limited but the threat of the spread of the infection was not yet over.
Addressing a meeting of parliamentary leaders of various parties via video conference, he said: “You would be happy to know that till yesterday only 153 cases were of local transmission and the rest were people who entered the country from abroad”, defending the policy of not bringing students from China due to which the country did not witness a single case of coronavirus coming from the neighbouring country.
Khan was still ambivalent on the issue of complete curfew like lockdown, which he said would hit hard the daily wagers and those living below the poverty line. He said the current lockdown in Sindh was a bit too much.
“In the federal government, we were of the view that we need to tailor our response according to the number of cases. Sindh reacted further. Due to the pressure by the media and the people, the provinces of Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab also initiated incremental lockdown,” he said.
He asked the provinces to continuously reassess the lockdown as it may have serious impact on the economy.
“Even in the western world, there is a debate on whether coronavirus comes first or the economy,” Khan said, adding that the construction industry should not be effected by the lockdown otherwise problems of poor workers would increase.
He said that the national coordination committee on the coronavirus would meet on Thursday to see if there was a need to impose curfew and if the transport across the country should be suspended.
“Only the people can fight this war, no government can,” he said.
Meanwhile, there is complete lockdown in the country and people have been told to remain inside of their homes. They are only allowed to go out in case of emergency.
The government has pledged to increase testing capability and other facilities in hospitals as new medical supplies are expected to start pouring in from China by Friday, according to NDMA chief Lt-Gen Muhammad Afzal.
According to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracker, there are 417,966 confirmed cases across the world, 18,615 deaths and 107,705 recoveries.
On Tuesday, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced a multi-billion rupee stimulus package to combat the deadly coronavirus and to facilitate poor people in the prevailing circumstances.
The government also suspended all passenger train operations through the country till March 31 and deployed army to assist the civil administration to enforce a nationwide lockdown to contain the virus outbreak.
Khan said Rs 200 billion has been allocated for the labour class to mitigate their sufferings, while the government is also reaching provinces and the business community to extend their assistance.
He said the government was highly conscious of its responsibilities and it was due to various policies and steps that the coronavirus was still contained in the country.