Pakistan decides to suspend flight operations to tackle coronavirus

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ISLAMABAD (City News) – In a bid to contain spread of coronavirus, the government of Pakistan has decided to suspend international flight operations from 08:00pm for the next two weeks. The decision has been taken after consultation with Prime Minister Imran Khan.

In a press conference along with Special Adviser to PM on Health Dr Zafar Mirza and Chairman National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Lieutenant General Muhammad Afzal in Islamabad today, SAPM) on National Security Division and Strategic Policy Planning Dr Moeed Yusuf said that a few international flights of Pakistan International Airlines will be allowed to return.

On the other hand, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has suspended its international operations for a week amid a rising number of coronavirus cases in the country.

The flight ban starting Saturday evening will run through March 28, Abdullah Khan, a spokesman for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), told reporters.

People have been advised to contact PIA call center for further information and change in booking dates.

The railways have already announced the suspension of 34 trains to Sindh and Balochistan – the two worst hit provinces by coronavirus.

In a video message on Twitter, Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed said that out of 134 total trains, 100 are still operational which has cut down the number of daily train passengers from 200,000 to 165,000.

He also highlighted that Pakistan Railways has refunded train tickets worth Rs80 million to affected passengers which could be used to travel through alternate trains.

On the other hand, Pakistan has partially reopened Chaman border with Afghanistan for the transportation of food items. DC Qillah Abdullah District Muhammad Bashir said the step has been taken as per the agreement concluded with the Afghan authorities.

He said about one hundred and fifty seven containers loaded with food items including vegetables and fresh fruit have been dispatched to Afghanistan.

Earlier, in a tweet, Prime Minister Imran Khan instructed to open the Chaman-Spin Boldak border and let the trucks crossover into Afghanistan.

ALSO READ: PM Imran hints no lockdown in Pakistan

Pakistan sealed its border with Iran last week, but not before hundreds of pilgrims returned home from the Islamic Republic, which has been one of the countries worst affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Number of confirmed cases in Pakistan has surged to 543 as 267 patients have been tested positive for the epidemic in Sindh, 104 in Balochistan, 104 in Punjab, 27 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 30 in Gilgit-Baltistan, ten in Islamabad and one Azad Kashmir

Coronavirus Live Updates: Situation in Pakistan

Pakistan has so far confirmed three fatalities from the pandemic, with latest casualty being a 77-year-old man in Karachi on Friday (yesterday). The first two deaths were reported in Mardan and Hangu of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The World Health Organization (WHO), a UN agency, has warned young people that they are not exempted from the risks of the novel coronavirus pandemic that has infected more than 270,000 people worldwide and left more than 11,000 others dead.

“Today, I have a message for young people: You are not invincible.” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday during a news conference in Geneva.

“This coronavirus could put you in hospital for weeks, or even kill you. Even if you don’t get sick, the choices you make about where you go could be the difference between life and death for someone else,” Tedros said.

So far most warnings about the novel coronavirus have focused on vulnerable populations, including older adults and those with underlying conditions.

But WHO officials said data from many countries clearly shows that people younger than 50 make up a significant proportion of patients requiring hospitalization.

Tedros’ comments come after earlier research indicated young adults were largely spared from serious complications from the coronavirus, and adults older than 60 and those with underlying medical conditions, like diabetes or heart and lung disease, were mostly at risk.

He said he is grateful so many people are, “spreading the word and not the virus,” adding, “everyday, we are learning more about this coronavirus and the disease it causes. One of the things we are learning is that although older people are the hardest hit, younger people are not spared.”

WHO said it is concerned if COVID-19 should gain a foothold in countries with weaker health systems, or with vulnerable populations, noting that it could lead to significant sickness and loss of life.

“But that is not inevitable”, Tedros said. “Unlike any pandemic in history, we have the power to change the way this goes”.

Citing that Wuhan, a city in China, where coronavirus originated, reported no new cases for the first time since the outbreak started, he said that that “provides hope for the rest of the world, that even the most severe situation can be turned around”.

While WHO is working actively to support all countries, the collapse of the personal protective equipment (PPE) market “has created extreme difficulties in ensuring health workers have access to the equipment they need to do their jobs safely and effectively”, the WHO chief said. click here.

Fortunately, he said, producers in China have agreed to supply WHO with PPE and arrangements are underway for shipments.

“We are also working hard to increase the global supply of diagnostic tests”, Tedros said, noting that WHO is working to evaluate new diagnostics and secure the supply and equitable distribution of tests.

In closing, the WHO chief acknowledged that “COVID-19 is taking so much from us”.

“But”, he added “it’s also giving us something special – the opportunity to come together as one humanity – to work together, to learn together, to grow together”.

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