LAHORE: The government of Punjab has banned entry of tourists and visitors into recreational spots across the province, including Murree and other tourists points, besides closure of shopping malls and restaurants at 10:00pm. Medical and general stores will remain open along with factories and markets.
Speaking to the media persons after inspecting a quarantine centre at the Labour Complex Multan on Wednesday, Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar highlighted the decisions of the apex committee meeting and said as suspected coronavirus cases have increased, the government has decided to limit public access to government offices. Only necessary staff will come to offices and rest will perform their duties remotely.
He pointed out that the government had initiated precautions on January 3 to deal effectively with coronavirus. It constituted a cabinet committee which holds meetings regularly and put forth their recommendations. The decisions taken during the National Security Committee meeting have been implemented across Punjab.
A control room has been established in the Punjab Health Department to cope up with coronavirus.
He highlighted that the provincial apex committee meeting was held at CM Office on Wednesday in which important decisions have been taken. The quarantine facilities will further be improved in Punjab and the government will assist other provinces, especially Balochistan to improve quarantine facilities.
“We will also extend assistance to Balochistan government with regard to setting up quarantine centre at Taftan,” he stated.
He maintained that the Punjab government was reviewing a proposal to set up quarantine centre in Taftan with its own resources. “The health department has been granted approximately Rs240 million to deal with coronavirus and we have also allocated additional Rs1 billion for the health department.”
Buzdar also announced a plan to set up a special fund of Rs5 billion to cope with coronavirus. Punjab government in case of need will set up field hospital consisting of 1,000 beds and 41 high-dependency units have also been established in hospitals, he added. “Three hospitals of Lahore, Rawalpindi and Muzaffargarh have been earmarked for coronavirus patients.”
The chief minister also visited quarantine centre being set up at the Labour Complex. He also inspected provision of facilities for the patients, hygiene arrangements and washrooms cleanliness at the centre.
Approximately 3,000 people can be accommodated in quarantine centre at the Labour Complex, he maintained. A make-shift hospital consisting of 100 beds has also been established in the quarantine centre.
The pilgrims arriving from Iran will be kept at the quarantine centre being set up at the Labour Complex and their tests will also be conducted. Buzdar was informed during a briefing that isolation ward has also been set up in the hospital and there is the capacity of additional 1,440 beds in Multan. Staff consisting of 300 persons will perform their duties to properly take care of the pilgrims in addition to performing other necessary duties.
Earlier, the chief minister chaired the meeting of the apex committee at his office, which was attended by Corps Commander Lahore Lt-Gen Majid Ehsan, General Officer Commanding 10-Division Maj- Gen Muhammad Aneequr Rehman Malik, DG Rangers Punjab Maj-Gen Muhammad Amir Majeed, Law Minister Basharat Raja, Health Minister Dr Yasmeen Rashid, Chief Secretary, IG Police, ACS (Home) and high level civil and military officials.
The meeting reviewed the steps being taken to deal with coronavirus, as well as the future roadmap, and decided to effectively implement the action plan against coronavirus.
The participants expressed the commitment to utilise all possible resources for saving the people from coronavirus. The military leadership assured their full cooperation to the government. The meeting decided that the steps will be implemented in letter and spirit for safety from coronavirus and any violation will not be tolerated.
It was agreed in the meeting to make collective efforts to implement the decisions made in the meeting. It was also decided to make the screening system at entry points of Punjab more effective.
Addressing the meeting, the chief minister emphasised that extraordinary steps are required to deal with the unusual situation and reiterated the government will go to every extent to save the lives of the people.
“There is no option except to win the war against coronavirus and both political as well as military leadership is on one page to deal with this pandemic,” he added. He maintained that every segment of the society should play its role for effectively dealing with the coronavirus adding that this pandemic will be eliminated at every cost.
Arrangements have been made to quarantine 5,000 people in DG Khan, Bahawalpur and Multan, he added. Buzdar reiterated that the health department will be provided with every possible resource to deal with the coronavirus threat adding that these steps have been taken to protect the people.
Corps Commander Lt-Gen Majid Ehsan, while addressing the meeting, said the Punjab government was taking effective steps for dealing with coronavirus. “We are extending cooperation to the government at every level to overcome it. It is a national cause and we will fully support the civil government,” he added.
The meeting was told that the number of coronavirus patients has increased to 198,000 in the world. There are 239 confirmed patients in Pakistan while the number of coronavirus patients in Punjab is 26.
The meeting also pondered over the proposal to set up quarantine facility in Taftan by the Punjab government and another proposal was also reviewed to use Hajj Terminal in Lahore as a quarantine centre for the suspected passengers. ACS (Home) and health secretaries briefed the meeting about coronavirus related situation and precautionary measures.
The government has issued instructions that only skeleton staff attend the offices whereas remaining staff would work through Skype. The PITB has been asked to develop a Skype-based account at the earliest.
On March 15, the Punjab Home Department had imposed Section 144 in the province for three weeks to prohibit any sort of mass gathering, closing educational institutes, religious seminaries, marriage halls, marquees, holding of exams, religious congregations, ceremonies, festivals of any type and public gatherings.
By Wednesday the government had booked 261 people in 124 cases for violation of Section 144. The authorities have also requested the people not to pay heed to social media rumours regarding lockdown.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 19th, 2020.