PESHAWAR: With three more patients testing positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on Wednesday, the provincial government on Wednesday said it may suspend the Annual Development Programme (ADP) of the province to divert funds to fight the pandemic.
“Three people have tested positive for COVID-19, one each from Buner, Mardan, and Hangu district,” said the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Health Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra, adding, “the toll of coronavirus patients has climbed to 19.”
Jhagra was addressing a news conference in the provincial capital after attending a meeting of the provincial coronavirus task force.
The health minister said that all those who have so far tested positive for the virus in the province had a history of recently travelling abroad.
Of the three new cases, he said that one case is being treated at the Buner District Headquarters Hospital, while the remaining two have been admitted to the Lady Reading Hospital and the Mardan Medical Complex respectively.
The health minister, who also holds the portfolio of finance, said the provincial government was assessing the situation and if it aggravates, it may cut development spending to redirect funds.
The minister said they had a three-hour meeting which was presided by the K-P Chief Minister Mahmood Khan. “We will fight this together and rise as a nation,” he added.
The provincial minister added that they have imposed emergency in the K-P Revenue Authority (K-PRA) so that the government can procure critical items required for public health. Face masks and other items protective gears are being provided to doctors for their safety.
In response to a question about the 225 pilgrims who had recently returned from Iran and were quarantined at a facility in Dera Ismail Khan, the minister said that results of their COVID-19 test are awaited.
CM seeks public support
K-P Chief Minister Mahmood Khan, in a statement on Wednesday, urged the public to support the government’s measures to curb the spread of the virus by strictly following precautionary measures.
In a statement on the microblogging social network Twitter, he assured that the provincial government is taking all possible measures to contain the virus.
The chief minister said that he was personally monitoring all matters related to COVID-19 in the province and that they are fully focused the preventing its spread.
In this regard, a notification issued by the K-P Relief, Rehabilitation and Settlement Department said that entry of general public to all secretariats, directorates, district offices (except those of the district administration) has been stopped while the timing for government offices has been restricted from 10am to 4pm from Mondays to Thursday, and 12pm on Fridays.
All official meetings, which have more than five members, will only be held through video conferencing.
Private ceremonies in houses and closed compounds have also been banned. Barbers and beauty parlours have also been ordered to close for 15 days. All restaurants and eateries in the province have been told to remain closed until April 5, though these establishments can operate for home deliveries and take-away.
Banks have been directed to install hand sanitisers at ATMs.
Police officers suspected of having COVID-19
At least 24 police officials, including a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), have been shifted to a quarantine facility set up at the Haripur Degree College on Wednesday on suspicion that they could have contracted COVID-19.
These officers had been providing security to pilgrims who had recently returned from Iran and were travelling to Gilgit-Baltistan.
A police officer has told The Express Tribune that the DSP, along with other police officers are tasked with escorting pilgrims from the Pakistan-Iran border to Gilgit and vice versa.
Lack of coordination
Lack of coordination is visible among the provincial government and district administrations as the latter have not been following the orders regarding safety measures to control the spread of coronavirus. Private schools in several districts have been taking examinations.
Weddings ceremonies are being held at wedding halls while the district administrations have turned a blind eye towards it. Several religious seminaries have been holding congregation and people from the province are participating in it.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 19th, 2020.