“The Sindh government took measures as soon as there was news of an outbreak in China,” said Bilawal, as he addressed a press conference at the Sindh Assembly in Karachi.
He said that the outbreak of the virus is a serious situation and must be taken seriously by every citizen of Pakistan.
“I would like to emphasise that coronavirus is an extremely serious and life-threatening issue […] It is ten times worse than the flu,” said Bilawal, stressing that the mortality rate, while still not known definitively, is much higher than the flu.
The PPP chairman said it was important to remember that the disease does not only affect the elderly and those with underlying conditions but can affect anyone.
“Of the two people who have died from the disease, one was 36 years old and one was 50 years of age, which means they were not very advanced in their years.”
“Even then, there is no need to spread panic because we are working day and night with all our hearts so we can ensure the protection of all your lives,” said Bilawal.
‘We are already too late’
He said that there was a dire need to work towards mitigating the spread of the contagion. “We are already too late. The statistics we have of other countries […] show us that there has been mitigation and a flattening of the curve (where strict quarantine measures were taken immediately).”
The PPP chairman said those countries identified and contained those who had the disease or were suspected to have it. The other measure taken by them was that of mass testing.
He said that the Sindh government had identified 34 suspected patients early on — when there was news of the outbreak in Wuhan — and had tested them. All tests had turned up negative.
He said that when the virus spread to Iran, the Sindh government obtained a list from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) of citizens who had come from Iran. “We identified them and had them self-quarantine at home for those who did not show symptoms and for those who did, we had them tested.”
Bilawal said we have reached a level where there will now be “community spread. “The cases do not only point towards those who returned from foreign travels but also those who interacted with them.”
Furthermore, the recent spike can be attributed to those who were under quarantine in Balochistan — after having come in from Iran. “When they came towards Sindh we kept them in isolation.”
“Unfortunately they were not tested and many were not identified (to have the disease). We have done that now which is why you are witnessing a surge in cases.”
He said that the federal government now needs to focus on mitigating the spread of COVID-19 by focusing on social distancing and isolation, and to maximise testing capabilities — a “two-pronged approach”.
“Sindh government on its own has arranged 10,000 testing kits,” he said.
Bilawal said unity is the need of the hour and a joint strategy to combat the virus will have to be developed for our efforts to be effective.
“We must not have our energies and focus geared towards criticism, blame and political scoring,” he urged, while also stressing that the federal government will have to bring “some changes” in its action plan.
‘Sindh govt will take care of you’
The PPP chairman said that the Sindh government will take up the responsibility of providing food supplies to the poor as they self isolate at home. “I assure you the Sindh government will take care of you,” he said.
“We call upon those of you who can help the Sindh government, to please extend a helping hand,” said Bilawal.
He directed the Sindh government officials to “ensure that no daily wage worker is laid off”. “You must make it incumbent upon private organisations as well to ensure that their employees’ salaries are timely disbursed.”
Bilawal said that the Sindh government is aware of the economic impact of the outbreak and will take “concrete measures to tackle it”.
“We will need to take some serious steps to keep the economy afloat,” he said.