Fact-checking Zartaj Gul’s Interview on PTV News

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On 18 June 2020, the Minister of State for Climate Change Zartaj Gul appeared on PTV News and said, “Covid-19 means that it has 19 points that can be applied in any country in any way.” The minister faced online backlash for her inaccurate claim, however, this wasn’t the only false statement she made in the same interview. Soch Fact Check decided to fact check the rest of her interview so that you don’t have to. 

1- Italy, America and China easing lockdown despite 2nd peak. 

During the interview, Zartaj Gul defended the government’s decision to ease the lockdown by claiming that countries such as Italy, America and China have eased their lockdowns in favour of keeping their economies afloat despite approaching a “second peak” in their Covid-19 cases. However, it should be noted that both China and Italy observed strict lockdowns for 2-3 months after the outbreak and only began easing restrictions when cases were on a downward fall. This never happened in Pakistan where Covid-19 infections have been rising since the outbreak. Furthermore, in a letter sent to the provincial governments in Pakistan, WHO Chief Palitha Mahipala said that the country did not meet any of the organisation’s six technical criteria for easing a lockdown.

2- “WHO first said it’s a pandemic, now saying it’s endemic. Until a vaccine is made for this, it has become localised. We have to learn to live with it following SOPs. This is a flu.”

The World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic on 11 March because of the unusually fast rate in which the virus is spreading. The new coronavirus has infected more than nine million people worldwide and has killed more than 400,000 people. In a briefing held on 13 May, WHO emergencies director Dr Mike Ryan suggested that the virus may never leave us, stating that it could become just another endemic virus. However, his claims were not conclusive and the World Health Organisation continues to refer to Covid-19 as a pandemic in all its latest updates. 

3- Bilawal Bhutto said that Covid-19 is a conspiracy that’s being spread by the federal government. 

During the interview, Zartaj Gul highlighted that Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is an inept leader because he blames the federal government for conspiring to spread Covid-19 in Pakistan. However, this claim is misleading. In a press conference held on June 6, Bilawal Bhutto noted that the Covid-19 spread in the country was not accidental but was allowed deliberately through inaction and creating confusion. He also said that the efforts of the Sindh government to contain the virus were sabotaged by the centre. This statement is different from Zartaj Gul’s claim, in which she says, “Bilawal Bhutto says that Covid-19 is a conspiracy that’s spread by the federal government in Pakistan. Do you think this guy has studied from Oxford? Do you think people will take the virus seriously after hearing this?” (Covid-19 Pakistan mein federal government ki phelai hui sazish hai) Her statement implies that Bilawal Bhutto said the Covid-19 pandemic itself is a conspiracy.

4- “Covid-19 means it has 19 points which can be applied to any country based on respective immunity levels.” 

According to a report published by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF on the coronavirus, an answer to a question about what Covid-19 is, says the following: “‘CO’ stands for corona, ‘VI’ for virus, and ‘D’ for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as ‘2019 novel coronavirus’ or ‘2019-nCoV.’” The ‘19’ specifically refers to the year in which the virus was first detected. Therefore, Zartaj Gul’s assertion about the name of the virus is incorrect. 

You can watch Zartaj Gul’s interview here


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