Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has said that Pakistan Army, at a critical time, has been given responsibility to assist the civil administration to get implemented the standard operating procedures (SOPs) to prevent the spread of Covid-19 pandemic. In a video message on Sunday, the interior minister said to this effect, a notification has been issued under which Punjab, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Islamabad Capital Territory, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir can seek services of military troops as per their needs for implementation of SOPs in the wake of increasing Covid cases in the country. He said that Sindh has so far not been included in this scheme. The interior minister said that the decision to seek services of the army regarding implementation on SOPs was taken at a meeting of the National Coordination Committee held on Friday last with Prime Minister Imran Khan in the chair. He said that the Pakistan Army has always stood by the nation during critical times, including catastrophes, floods, and earthquakes. He said that around 400,000 Covid cases are being reported in India on a daily basis, making the cremation centres and graveyards equally busy. He said in view of such a situation, Pakistan Army has been assigned the task to get SOPs implemented to contain the spread of the contagion. Meanwhile, it emerged on Sunday that following the National Coordination Committee’s (NCC) decision, the Sindh government has written to the federal government, seeking the deployment of army personnel in the province to ensure adherence to Covid-19 precautionary SOPs. “The services of armed forces of Pakistan in aid of civil power are required under Article 245 of the Constitution of Pakistan,” read a letter penned by the home department to the federal interior ministry. “Exact nature of deployment of troops and equipment will be communicated in due course of time after carrying out requisite assessment in consultation with [the] quarters concerned,” the communique added. The letter further stated that, “It is, therefore, requested to kindly accord approval for deployment of Armed Forces in aid of Civil Power in the Province of Sindh.” The Pakistan Army was called out on April 23 in aid of civil administration to ensure implementation of precautionary measures against the rampaging novel coronavirus as the prime minister warned the government might impose lockdown in major cities if the spread of the deadly contagion is not contained. The ominous warning came as Covid-19 – the deadly respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus – appeared to have spiraled out of control in India where the healthcare system is staggering amid shortage of oxygen and medicines while crematoriums are being overwhelmed with deluges of bodies. “If the situation worsens here like it has worsened in India, then we will have to impose lockdowns in cities – something we do not want and cannot afford because, in that case the poor – labourers and the daily-wagers – will suffer the most,” the premier had said during the address to the nation. He added that he had been resisting calls from his aides who advised him to immediately impose lockdowns in the major cities. The coronavirus claimed 118 more lives during the last twenty-four hours, raising the death tally to 17,117 nationwide as the country continues to grapple with the third wave of the infection. As per official data shared by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Sunday, 55,128 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours from which 5,611 tests returned positive. The positivity rate of the coronavirus in the country stands at 10.17 percent. The number of active cases now stands at 88,698 with nationwide recoveries rising to 689,812. The country’s tally for confirmed cases has now reached 795,627. According to the NCOC, among the day’s fatalities, 40 were of patients on ventilator support, whereas 110 of these patients were hospitalised. Most deaths occurred in Punjab, followed by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Highest ventilator occupancy was recorded in Gujranwala with 88 percent, 85 percent in Multan, 84 percent in Lahore and 66 percent in Mardan. Moreover, the NCOC reported that there was no Covid-19 patient on ventilator support in Gilgit-Baltistan, Balochistan and Azad Jammu & Kashmir. As many as 531 vents are currently occupied across Pakistan. Since the beginning of the outbreak, a total of 795,627 cases have so far been detected in Pakistan, including 16,463 in AJK, 21,618 in Balochistan, 5,253 in GB, 72,981 in Islamabad, 113,121 in KP, 288,598 in Punjab and 277,593 in Sindh. Among the 17,117 deaths, 4,593 occurred in Sindh, 7,964 in Punjab, 3,103 in KP, 660 in Islamabad, 232 in Balochistan, 104 in GB, and 461 in AJK. There are at least 633 hospitals with Covid-19 facilities in Pakistan with 5,791 patients currently admitted. Meanwhile, with 3,056 fresh cases of Covid-19 reported in Punjab in 24 hours, the province’s tally for confirmed cases reached 288,598 on Saturday. The province also recorded another 67 deaths, taking the death toll to 7,964. A total of 233,655 patients have recovered in the province so far. Meanwhile, another doctor died of Covid-19 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Sunday, taking the total number of deaths of doctors due to the novel coronavirus to 64. Assistant Professor Muhammad Ali, who was serving at the psychiatric department of the Naseer Teaching Hospital in Peshawar, had fallen prey to Covid a few days ago. He was receiving treatment at a private hospital of the provincial capital, and breathed his last on Saturday night. According to the provincial doctors’ association, so far, 97 members of the medical staff died due to the virus, including 64 doctors, 15 paramedics, six nurses, and 13 class-IV workers. Meanwhile, the NCOC on Sunday revealed that 10 children have succumbed to the coronavirus since March 15. As per an NCOC report one more child falling in the 1-10 years age bracket, passed away from coronavirus on Saturday. The latest casualty is alarming as this makes it the 10th child, aged between 1-10 years, to pass away from the virus since March 15. In the past one week, three children aged between 1-10 years have succumbed to the virus, said the NCOC. The NCOC also revealed that since the pandemic first started spreading in the country last year, 48 children have died of the coronavirus. Authorities have imposed smart lockdown in more areas of Karachi and Lahore on Sunday, as coronavirus cases surge in both the cities. According to details, the district administration has imposed micro-smart lockdown in more areas of Karachi’s District Central from April 25 to May 8 due to surge in coronavirus cases. A notification has been issued regarding the imposition of micro-smart lockdown in four towns of the Central district from April 25 to May 8. The lockdown will remain imposed in different areas of Gulbarg, North Karachi, Liaquatabad and North Nazimabad towns. The lockdown has been imposed due to the presence of 46 coronavirus patients in four towns of the district. The micro-smart lockdown has been imposed in seven blocks of Gulbarg Town, Firdos Colony and Block-VIII area in Liaquatabad Town, Sector 11-A and B in North Karachi and Block A, B, L and J in North Nazimabad. According to the notification, all persons have to wear face masks who are entering or leaving the specific areas, whereas, unnecessary movement of the people has also been banned. All business and industrial activities will remain suspended in these areas, while the pillion riding has been banned. All kinds of family gatherings will be banned in the said areas and the coronavirus-positive persons will be quarantined in their homes. The government will take all possible steps for distribution of ration items among the entitled people, the notification added. In Lahore, authorities have imposed a smart lockdown targeting 15 areas till May 7. On the other hand, the smart lockdown in various parts of Punjab has been extended till May 17. As per the SOPs issued by authorities, business centres in Punjab will be closed at 6:00pm while Saturdays and Sundays will be holidays where businesses will remain shuttered. In addition, amusement parks, cinema halls, sports events, cultural festivals, and gatherings will be completely banned during the lockdown.