Pakistan struggles to meet demand for protective gear as cases cross 4,000; doctors arrested for protesting against shortage

As the total number of coronavirus cases in Pakistan crossed 4,000 on Tuesday with 340 fresh infections reported in less than 24 hours, the country struggled to ramp up efforts to beat the pandemic.

According to latest reports, the total number of infections has gone up to 4,414, while 63 have died due to COVID-19. As many as 572 have recovered while 31 were in critical condition.

The increase in the number of new cases was reported despite hectic efforts to curtail the spread of the virus.

 Pakistan struggles to meet demand for protective gear as cases cross 4,000; doctors arrested for protesting against shortage

(File) Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan. AP

The government has extended the partial lockdown until 14 April and asked people to stay indoors and follow social distancing measures.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has also announced Rs 1,200 billion financial package to help vulnerable people and businesses.

But despite the efforts, medical staff across Pakistan have complained for weeks over the severe shortages of safety equipment in hospitals as they treat patients suffering from the coronavirus.

Police on Monday arrested doctors and medical staff in Balochistan's capital Quetta for protesting over the lack of protective gears.

According to Yasir Khan, president of the Young Doctors Association, more than 150 doctors and paramedics have been arrested.

The doctors and medical staff wanted to protest outside the Balochistan chief minister's house when the police baton-charged them. Video footage from Monday's protest showed dozens of doctors raising slogans and criticising the provincial government.

The protest came after more than a dozen doctors contracted the virus reportedly while discharging their duties.

The authorities say they are racing to procure more supplies of protective gear and setting up more quarantine facilities as the number of cases surge.

Doctors complain that those directly deployed in the COVID-19 wards only have access to protective gear leaving millions other doctors who are deployed in normal wards and clinics exposed.

"We do not have personal protective equipment (PPE), or goggles, and even [face] masks we are buying from our own funds,"Al Jazeera quoted Dr Ahmed Zeb, a spokesman for a doctor's union in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province as saying.

The shortage of equipment was highlighted after Pakistan president Arif Alvi was seen wearing a N-95 mask at a meeting, prompting Pakistan Medical Association to issue a statement urging general public and politicians to not misuse N-95 masks, which are needed by medical professionals and COVID-19 patients.

Alvi later issued a clarification that he was merely reusing an old mask.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's Supreme Court Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed on Monday criticised the government for lack of efforts to combat the coronavirus, saying "nothing is being done on ground".

Prime Minister Khan has warned that the situation due to coronavirus pandemic "can further deteriorate" and "hospitals may not be able to cope" with the increasing number of COVID-19 patients, even as he justified his decision of not enforcing a total lockdown in Pakistan, saying over 50 million people were below the poverty line in the country and they could die of hunger if such a step is taken.

The government has extended a partial lockdown till 14 April and is constantly asking people to stay indoors and follow social distancing.

Khan said that a decision on easing the countrywide lockdown will be taken after seeking inputs from all the provinces on 14 April.

Addressing the to members of Balochistan's Provincial Cabinet and Parliaments in Quetta on Thursday afternoon, Khan said federal and provincial governments are working jointly to cope with the situation arising out of the coronavirus crisis.

He said that the National Command and Control Centre is minutely observing the situation across the country.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: Apr 09, 2020 21:03:15 IST



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