ISLAMABAD: The number of coronavirus cases in Pakistan reached 1,865 on Tuesday, showing a constant upward trajectory with officials scrambling to contain the spread of the dreaded disease by appealing to the public to remain inside as people in many cities were seen roaming out.
The Ministry of Health Services in its update on dedicated website showed that the largest province of Punjab had maximum 652 patients.
It is followed by Sindh with 627, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) with 221, Balochistan 153, Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) 148, Islamabad 58 and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir 6 cases of COVID-19.
The website reported 148 new patients in the last 24 hours. So far 25 people died due to the disease, while 52 recovered. Another 12 were in critical condition at various hospitals.
Officials in Pakistan were scrambling to contain the disease by appealing to the public to remain inside homes and go out only in cases of emergencies.
But there was little impact on the masses and in several cities, people were seen roaming out while security officials were trying to convince them to go back to their places.
Efforts were also going to cope with mass breakout by providing more spaces for the patients and Pakistan Railway offered at least 30 coaches which were converted into isolation centers.
Separately, the Supreme Court of Pakistan suspended orders by various high courts to release dozens of under trial prisoners to ease pressure on jails as there was threat of the spread in overcrowded prisons.
Earlier, the Islamabad High Court (IHC), the Sindh High Court and the Lahore High Court had accepted bails of dozens of such prisoners.
The Punjab province is emerging as the new epicentre of the deadly viral infection in the country with 652 patients.
The government of Pakistan's largest province of Punjab has allowed treatment of critically ill patients of the COVID-19 with chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine besides expanding the capacity of beds across the province, according to a media report on Tuesday.
Reportedly, the government has also procured 50,000 tablets of the drugs, as Mayo Hospital in Lahore had earlier started using the drug on critical patients.
China has also treated its critical patients suffering from the virus and the US has also allowed its use, the report said.
Dawn reported that the decision was taken by the government after the Food and Drug Authority (FDA) of the US granted approval to using hydroxychloroquine, which is originally used to treat malaria.
"Our physicians have started medication of the seriously ill patients of the coronavirus at the Mayo Hospital and initial reports suggest that the drug is yielding positive results," unveiled Mayo Hospital Chief Executive Prof Dr Asad Aslam Khan.
Meanwhile, the government planned to rent two three-star hotels in the city to use their rooms to isolate suspected patients of the coronavirus.
A 1,000-bed Expo Centre Hospital has also been completed for patient management and will start functioning soon after the recruitment of 1,900 doctors, nurses and paramedics.
On Monday, Dr Khan said, Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid reviewed final arrangements at the Expo Centre and addressed the staff, including doctors, to motivate them for this daunting task.
Dr Khan has also been appointed as administrator of the Expo Centre Hospital.
"We have divided the 1,000-bed Expo Centre Hospital into three portions for the patients," he explained. Two portions will be used to isolate mild and severe patients of the disease separately.
The third potion will be used for seriously ill patients, he said, adding that a 50-bed high dependency unit has also been made fully functional with ventilators.
He also said that the Mayo Hospital OPD has become the largest set-up for coronavirus in Punjab with 500 more beds added to the isolation and quarantine wards here.
The patients testing positive at the OPD here would be shifted to the Expo Centre Hospital, he added.