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Pak to partially resume train services; Coronavirus tally crosses 43,000

Press Trust of India  |  Islamabad 

Pakistan on Monday announced to partially resume the train services and its apex court ordered that shopping malls and markets should be allowed to operate throughout the week across the country even as the coronavirus cases crossed 43,000.

Information Minister Shibli Faraz said that the government has decided to allow the railways to start its limited operations from May 20.

"Pakistan Railways will resume partial services on 30 trains 15 up and 15 down from May 20," said a press release by the Pakistan Railways.

Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said that Prime Minister Imran Khan has given the permission to partially resume train services from Wednesday on the condition that standard operation procedures (SOPs) were adhered to as the country battles the novel coronavirus.

"If the situation [of the coronavirus pandemic] remains stable during the current month, then all train services will be resumed across the country from June 1," Rashid said.

Thousands of people have made advance bookings to travel home ahead of Eid, which would be celebrated later this month.

Pakistan has already made partially operational the domestic air services as the nation continues to lift its nation-wide lockdown.

Prime Minister Khan in his effort to reach out to the vulnerable groups launched cash support program for the jobless workers. He said at the launch in Islamabad that over Rs 3 billion were so far collected in the Corona Relief Fund, which would be used to provide support to the people who lost jobs.

Meanwhile, a five-member Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed ordered that shopping malls and markets should be allowed to operate throughout the week across the country.

Markets and shopping malls in Pakistan were shut down during the lockdown imposed to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

Hearing a suo moto case regarding measures taken against the virus outbreak, the chief justice questioned the "logic" behind keeping malls closed and ordered that shopping malls and markets should remain open seven days a week.

"Provinces should not create hurdles in opening shopping malls after getting permission (from the health ministry). The court expects that the health ministry will not create any unimportant hurdles and will (allow) businesses to open," the chief justice observed.

The apex court also expressed displeasure at the way the money is being spent to deal with the coronavirus crisis and grilled the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) over the expenditure.

The NDMA had submitted a report over the amount spent on medical equipment and quarantine centres for suspected patients.

In his press briefing, Faraz said the directives of the Supreme Court to open businesses was a proof that the government's plan of action for tackling the outbreak and easing lockdown was correct.

The minister asked the people to adopt precautionary measures as the virus had not gone away, only shops were opened.

"Corona has not disappeared. It is here and no one knows how long it will stay for. But we appeal to the public, that just because things are opening back up [...] they can't continue on with the lives they lead before the virus, he said.

The nationwide tally of coronavirus cases has soared to 43,158. Out of total 43,158 patients, 17,241 cases have so far been detected in Sindh, 15,346 in Punjab, 6,230 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 2,692 in Balochistan, 997 in Islamabad, 540 in Gilgit-Baltistan and 112 in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

A total of 11,922 patients have so far recovered from the virus whilst the death toll stands at 923 with 50 new deaths reported. So far 387,335 tests had been conducted, including 13,925 in the last 24 hours.

In Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, the authorities have announced to revoke relaxations in the lockdown from Tuesday after a dangerous surge in the number of COVID-19 cases.

"In view of the tendency of rapid outbreak of COVID-19 and increase of patients to a dangerous level, the government is suspending relaxations in the lockdown from Monday-Tuesday midnight," according to a notification issued on Sunday.

"There will be complete lockdown that had been imposed earlier on March 23 under Epidemic Diseases Act, 1958, the notification added.

Only pharmacies and grocery stores were allowed to open for specified hours during the lockdown.

Earlier, Planning Minister Asad Umar said that a capacity of 30,000 tests per day would be sufficient for Pakistan to control the spread of the deadly virus.

Currently, we are in a position to hold over 25,000 tests per day and with every passing day our capacity to conduct tests is increasing. We hope that by the end of the month or at the start of next month we will be able to hold 30,000 tests per day, he said.told Dawn.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, May 18 2020. 22:14 IST