Islamabad- Pakistan on Monday deployed army to assist the civil administration to enforce nationwide lockdown and perform other duties as the number of coronavirus cases sharply rose to 875.
“Army will assist federal and provincial governments in their respective plans to deal with COVID-19,” Army spokesman Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar said while addressing a news conference in Rawalpindi.
His remarks came after the interior ministry invoked the Article 245 of the Constitution to call armed forces.
The decision to deploy army was taken as police faced problems in enforcing the strict measures to keep people indoors after all provincial governments announced complete or partial lockdown.
Iftikhar said that all shopping malls, restaurants and public transport will remain closed across the country and army soldiers will be available to help.
“All the borders have been closed but the real border is between human and coronavirus which we need to shut, he said, adding that actions will be taken to limit the interaction of the people.
He also said that the army chief donated one month salary to fight coronavirus while ordering army to use all sources to defeat the virus.
“COAS (General Qamar Javed Bajwa) has donated his one month salary for this fight against coronavirus,” he said, adding that other officers have also decided to donate their one month salaries.
At least six people have died, while six others recovered from COVID-19 so far, according to the country’s National Disaster Management Authority.
Of the total 875 cases, Sindh province accounted for with 394 cases, Punjab 246, Balochistan 110, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa 38, Islamabad 15 and Gilgit-Baltistan 72 and 1 in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani in a video message on Monday confirmed that he had tested positive for coronavirus and was now in isolation at his home.
Ghani’s positive test led to the Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah instructing all his Cabinet members to take the test.
Sindh on midnight on Sunday became the first province in Pakistan to forcefully start a 15-days lockdown with police, paramilitary rangers and even the army soldiers patrolling the city and implementing the lockdown.
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar on Monday announced a 14-day lockdown in the province from 9 am Tuesday.
During the lockdown, grocery stores, pharmacies, fruit and vegetables shops will remain open. “It is not curfew or traditional lockdown and all essential supplies will be available,” he said.
Earlier, Army chief Bajwa reviewed the countrywide spread of COVID-19 and the Army’s readiness to assist the civil administration.
The coronavirus outbreak resulted in the low-key celebrations of the annual Pakistan Day.
Pakistan Day recognises the resolution passed by the then All India Muslim League on March 23, 1940 which demanded a separate country.
The day is traditionally marked by a colourful military and cultural parade in capital Islamabad. However, all planned events were cancelled on Monday.
In separate messages, President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan urged the people to show utmost unity, discipline and passion to fight the coronavirus.
“The Pakistani nation has the capability to face any ordeal and God willing, we will stand victorious in this test,” Prime Minister Khan said.
Gilgit-Baltistan enforced lockdown on Sunday midnight. Pakistan-occupied Kashmir also imposed a three-week lockdown.
In several cities, roads wore a deserted look as the security forces put up containers on the main roads and in lanes to block traffic.
Several arrests were reported from some towns in Sindh for violating the lockdown while at many places the security forces could be seen punishing violators by making them do exercises.
Balochistan province on Monday reported its first death. A 65-year-old patient with a history of illnesses died at the Fatima Jinnah hospital.
Pakistan has suspended all international flights for two weeks and curtailed train services.
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