PM Imran rejects proposal for two-week lockdown in Punjab
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday rejected the proposal of a two-week-long complete lockdown in Punjab particularly in Lahore despite the alarming rise in new cases and deaths in the province, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.
The suggestion had come into light after the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned the Punjab government about the alarming trend being witnessed in the province since relaxing the lockdown.
The WHO had noted the rise in the number of new cases and deaths, while suggesting a mechanism of imposing a two-week lockdown followed by relaxations on a repeated basis.
The prime minister took the decision while chairing a meeting in Lahore, which was attended by Governor Chaudhry Sarwar, Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, provincial cabinet members and NDMA Chairman Lt-Gen Muhammad Afzal.
Although Imran expressed his concern over the coronavirus spread in Lahore, he said there won’t be any complete lockdown anywhere in Punjab while the areas of Lahore only might be declared red zone, in case of finding a high number of new cases there, under the smart lockdown strategy. The suggestion of shutting down the markets was also rejected.
However, the meeting decided that the administration would ensure strict implementation of SOPs. In this connection, the government is supposed to introduce new restrictions/conditions to tighten the implementation of the SOPs.
The prime minister said that the implementations on SOPs would be ensured and masks would be necessary to go to a public place.
He said anyone without a mask in the public place would be penalised. He also urged to fully operationalise Tiger Force to raise awareness among the masses regarding the SOPs and coronavirus. “Where the people are not complying with the SOPs that area or place would be locked down.”
He urged the people to take the precautionary measures for the sake of their loved ones as if the government had to lockdown some place, area or factory, the people would face further difficulties and unemployment.
The prime minister said the people should themselves take the responsibility and as a responsible nation, they should observe the SOPs completely and take precautionary measures as if the people did not cooperate the situation could have been worsened.
The prime minister said if Pakistan was a small and rich country like Singapore and New Zealand then Pakistan could have adopted the complete lockdown and could have controlled the pandemic.
He said the New York’s mayor, one of the richest cities in the world, has said that they were heading towards bankruptcy due to the lockdown and one could imagine how the complete lockdown could have damaged Pakistan’s already struggling economy.
He said it was due to the pandemic that the federal government has to endure a lot of difficulties in preparing this year’s budget.
The premier noted that in India, "it has become a challenge for the government to balance feeding the poor and stemming the spread of the virus. We wanted to avoid an India-like scenario but now we must follow the SOPs."
Punjab’s Health Minister Yasmin Rashid also detailed the availability of resources in the province for the coronavirus patients. She said Punjab has 10000 dedicated beds in hospitals for the coronavirus patients and the premier has also ordered the NDMA to provide more 1000 oxygenated beds to the province.
She also said Punjab was facing shortage for life-saving injection Acterma, which is being trialled for the treatment of the coronavirus patient as the importers of this injection were allowed to import that injection only from Japan by DRAP.
She said now upon Punjab government’s request, the PM has given go-ahead for importing the injection from the United States as well to overcome the shortage. She said in Lahore, 197 ventilators public and 104 private-sector ventilators are available for Covid-19 patients.
Pakistan has reported the highest number of newly-infected people during the past 24 hours after which the total climbed to 132,405. Apart from these 6,472 new cases recorded Friday, another 88 people died from the virus during the same period, raising the death toll of 2,551. Punjab has now topped 50,000 cases with the addition of 2,705 new patients after which the total for the province jumped to 50,087. On the other hand, most of these latest deaths were recorded in Punjab where 48 patients lost their lives, raising overall the number for the province to 938.
Last week, the WHO said Pakistan did not meet any of the six conditions required to start lifting the restrictions imposed in connection with the coronavirus-induced lockdown, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.
In a letter written to the Punjab government, the WHO said, “Pakistan has been ranked among the top 10 countries around the globe in reporting the highest number of new cases.”
About the alarming rate at which the results of tests are coming as positive and weak surveillance system, the top world health body said, “The positive rate [of tests] is high at 24% (above the required level of 5%), the surveillance system (identify, test, isolate, care for the ill including identification and follow up of contact and quarantining) is weak.”
“There is limited capacity to provide critical care (only 751 ventilators are allocated for COVID-19,” the top international health body mentioned in its letter.
Meanwhile, the six conditions noted by the WHO mentioned this letter, for any government before relaxing the lockdown are:
1. Disease transmission is under control
2. Health system can detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact
3. Hot spot risks are minimised in vulnerable places, such as nursing home
4. Schools, workplaces and other essential places have established preventative measures
5. The risk of importing new cases can be managed
6. Communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to live under a new normal