By Sajjad Hussain
(Eds: Updates with more details)
Islamabad, Jul 9 (PTI) Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurated Pakistan's first-ever specialised hospital for infectious diseases here on Thursday to meet the increasing challenges posed by the coronavirus that has claimed nearly 5,000 lives and infected over 240,000 people in the country.
The 250-bed Isolation Hospital and Infectious Treatment Centre (IHITC) was built in a record 40 days.
Speaking to the media after the inaugration ceremony, Khan appealed to the people to follow social distancing on Eidul Azha, expected to be observed on July 31.
He said the "carelessness on Eidul Fitr '' in May led to an increase in the number of patients and pressure on hospitals.
"Today, I want to make a special appeal to you all: if we are careless on Eidul Azha, the virus could spread again and there could be a fresh spike in the number of infections. Hospitals will come under pressure again," said Khan, who was accompanied by Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the inaugration ceremony.
Khan also urged the people to follow the official guidelines and observe the festival with simplicity.
"I appeal to the entire nation to observe Eid with simplicity — for the sake of your country, its economy and especially the elderly and at-risk members of the society," he said.
Khan was briefed about the hospital which is a state-of-the-art medical facility and was built at a cost of Rs 980 million.
The number of coronavirus cases in Pakistan crossed the 240,000-mark after 3,359 new infections were detected in the last 24 hours, while 61 people died of the disease, taking the death toll to 4,983, the health ministry said on Thursday.
According to the Ministry of National Health Services, the number of recovered patients has reached 145,311.
The number of critically ill patients is 2,193, out of which 435 are on ventilators. The death toll has reached 4,983 after another 61 people died due to the COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, the ministry said.
Out of the total 240,848 infections, Sindh has reported 99,362 cases, Punjab 84,587, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa 29,052, Islamabad 13,731, Balochistan 11,052, Gilgit-Baltistan 1,605 and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir 1,459 cases.
A total of 1,491437 tests have been conducted, including 24,333 in the last 24 hours.
Separately, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) decided to set up a committee in the interior ministry to prevent the spread of misinformation about the deadly coronavirus on social media.
The committee led by Interior Minister Ijaz Shah will prepare a legal framework to prevent and counter fake news.
Also, Prime Minister Khan has called for strict implementation of the standard operating procedures on the occasion of Eidul Azha and during Muharram.
Meanwhile, Pakistan announced on Thursday to reopen all educational institutions in the country from September 15.
Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood told the media in Islamabad that educational institutions would be allowed to operate after implementation of official guidelines.
"The federal government will formulate SoPs and share with the provincial governments, and they will be authorised to close the institutions, which do not observe the SoPs," he said.
The minister said the government will review the situation in August and the decision of reopening would also be reviewed if the pandemic situation failed to improve.
Earlier, it was decided to reopen school in July but it is not possible as Eidul Azha will be celebrated by the end of the month and in August the country will observe Ashura.
The minister said that schools and universities were allowed to call in their staff before September 15 so that administrative operations can be resumed.
Earlier, all educational institutions were closed on March 15 after a spike in the coronavirus. PTI SH AMS MRJ MRJ