COVID-19 cases could surge to a million by end July, warns Asad Umar

Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar addressing a press conference in Islamabad, on Sunday. — Youtube screengrab

Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar on Sunday warned that if citizens continued to display the lackadaisical attitude witnessed so far in safeguarding against the coronavirus, cases might climb up to 300,000 by the end of this month and hit a million by end July.

Addressing media at the National Command and Operation Centre (NCC) in Islamabad, Umar stressed that there is a radical need to bring a change in attitude towards the virus on an individual and collective basis, and that wearing masks is mandatory for slowing down the spread of the disease.

“Studies suggest that the pace of the virus’ spread could decrease by 50% by covering the mouth alone,” Umar stated, adding that social distancing is equally valuable for combating the disease.

Reiterating support to provincial governments in the fight against the virus, the development minister said that the Punjab government will announce today [Sunday] the strategy for actions in areas which are hotbeds of the disease.

“About 500 beds are to be added in Sindh and Punjab, and 400 oxygen beds to be added in KP [Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa] to help provinces in the fight against the virus,” he said.

Noting that more than 2,000 people across the country are on oxygen beds at the moment, Umar said that the federal government will ensure expanding the delivery of these beds to all four provinces, as well as the federal capital.

“About 2,150 oxygen beds would be provided to the provinces by the end of next month,” he announced.

With testing capacities also being enhanced, the minister said that now 30,000 tests are being conducted on a daily basis which were just around 500 when the first cases were reported.

“In next four to six weeks, the testing capacity is expected to increase to 150,000,” he said.

Raising concerns that the country’s health system would be paralysed in the coming days if adequate and timely measures are not taken to stem the virus, Umar underlined that the government would carry out a targeted lockdown in the areas most-hit due to coronavirus and would impose stricter curbs there.

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