LAHORE: In the wake of a global outbreak of novel coronavirus and increase in the number of confirmed cases in Pakistan, the Punjab government has decided to impose a public health emergency across the province.
A meeting of the Punjab Cabinet, presided over by Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar at his office on Thursday, gave the approval to impose public health emergency. The meeting decided to take steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus that has already claimed over 4,000 lives in the world.
Addressing the meeting participants, Buzdar reiterated the need to take necessary measures, adding that committees should submit their recommendations and the Punjab government would take every possible step in this regard. Punjab Health Department will be provided resources required to purchase necessary medical equipment, he stated.
The meeting also decided to launch a public awareness campaign about coronavirus and the chief minister pointed out that the Punjab government had taken lead in taking steps to deal with coronavirus. It was highlighted in the meeting that out of 71 suspected coronavirus patients, the tests of 66 were negative while the result of five other patients is awaited.
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Out of 20 confirmed coronavirus patients, 14 belong to Sindh, five to Gilgit-Baltistan and one is from Balochistan.
The screening of 3,000 Chinese citizens has been completed in Punjab and the screening of around 4,000 pilgrims returning from Iran has also been conducted. Along with it, quarantine facility has been set up for 800 patients in Dera Ghazi Khan and high dependency units and isolation wards have been established in DHQ hospitals. The health secretaries gave briefings about the situation related to coronavirus.
Following the cabinet meeting, Law and Social Welfare Minister Raja Basharat explained its decisions in a news conference along with other ministers.
Punjab Food Minister Samiuallah Chaudhry said approval has been granted for wheat procurement policy 2020-21, according to which the official price has been fixed at Rs1,400 per maund.
For the facilitation of farmers and cultivators, arrangements have been made at the established centres of Food Department for making their payments so that they may not have to go bank branches located farther.
The meeting approved arrangements with the National Radio Communication Corporation for the supply of retro-reflective vehicle number plates and decided to create a separate tourism department by bifurcating it from the Youth Affairs and Sports Department.
Approval of amendments to the Stamp Act 1899, Punjab Police (Special Branch) Intelligence Cadre Service Rules 2012 and schedule of Sub Inspectors and Inspectors (Appointment and Conditions of Service) Rules 2013 was given by the cabinet.
An amendment in rules for the supply of water to power plants by Irrigation Department was also approved.
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The meeting expressed a deep sense of sorrow over the crash of a PAF plane in Islamabad and prayed for Wing Commander Noman Akram.
Basharat maintained that CM Buzdar has started implementing the promise of Prime Minister Imran Khan for creating the south Punjab province.
During the first phase, an additional chief secretary, additional IG and special secretaries of departments will start working in Multan and Bahawalpur from April.
He said a policy will be chalked out to garner the support of opposition parties for getting the bill approved from Punjab Assembly.
The minister said many important decisions will be made in coming days with regard to removing the deprivations of south Punjab and matters pertaining to budget and development projects.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 13th, 2020.