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Pakistan can't afford nationwide lockdown to prevent coronavirus spread: PM Imran Khan

Press Trust of India  |  Islamabad 

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said Pakistan cannot afford to implement nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the country.

Earlier in the day, Pakistan reported its third COVID-19 death and the total number of confirmed cases rose to 464. The third death was reported in the country's biggest city Karachi, the capital of Southern Sindh province which has reported the highest number of coronavirus cases in the country.

"Lockdown means curfew-like situation, which will create unrest in the country and we cannot afford that. It would make poor people more vulnerable," Khan told reporters here.

He, however, said lockdown could be implemented in specified clusters, if needed, and hoped that the masses would self-quarantine and help the government to fight the virus menace.

Khan requested citizens to limit their movement and remain inside their homes for a period of one to two months. He also urged people to adopt social distancing as a precautionary measure.

He said the coronavirus situation in the country is being monitored on daily basis and experiences of various countries, especially China, will be taken into account to combat the crisis.

Khan said if the cases further spike, four to five per cent people may need hospitalisation, which will put a strain on the available medical resources.

He said the government is working on a financial package to tide over the possible economic impact of the viral outbreak in the country.

Advisor on Finance Abdul Hafeez Shaikh said the government is working on a joint strategy to bring a stimulus package for industries affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

He said a survey is being conducted to understand which industries were most hurt and as part of the stimulus measures, taxes will be reduced on certain products, while subsidies will be given on others.

Replying to a question, Sheikh said it was agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that Pakistan's expense on dealing with the coronavirus outbreak should not be added to the deficit amount.

He said the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank also agreed to provide loans to Pakistan on flexible terms to deal with the outbreak.

National Disaster Management Authority chief Lieutenant General Muhammad Afzal said isolation wards at every big hospital in the country have been set up.

He said 12 million face masks have been acquired in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, while another order of same quantity has already been given.

He said the government has already ordered 800 ventilators from China and the number could be increased to 6,000, if needed.

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

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First Published: Fri, March 20 2020. 23:02 IST