LAHORE: As the number of patients of coronavirus has been constantly soaring, the Punjab government finally announced a lockdown in the province from Saturday night to Tuesday morning. All parks, markets, shopping malls and restaurants will remain closed from 9:00pm on Saturday to 9:00am on Tuesday, except general stores, meat and chicken shops, fuel stations, pharmacies, bakeries, tandoors, fruit and vegetable shops.
The cabinet committee on coronavirus made this decision on Saturday. Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar said it was an effort to encourage social distancing and make the campaign against coronavirus more effective. “Though hotels and restaurants will remain closed during this period, they can continue their takeaway service.”
He clarified that public transport would continue plying across Punjab but citizens were requested to avoid unnecessary travel. He also directed the departments concerned that problems should not be created for shopkeepers.
Buzdar appealed to the citizen to stay at their homes during the weekend as social distancing was mandatory to minimise the spread of the virus among the people. “The government is making standard operating procedures (SOPs), in consultation with the federal government, for the house quarantine of coronavirus patients.”
He indicated that the government had to take this decision following an increase in the crowd at parks, markets and recreational spots following the closure of schools. The government has decided to close all avenues of public gathering to minimise social interaction. The chief minister also directed the Punjab Industries Department to ensure sufficient supply of essential commodities.
He also highlighted that a Corona Emergency Ordinance would be presented to the cabinet for approval on Tuesday. “Punjab chief secretary will present provincial contingency plan while the finance minister will draft the social protection contingency plan to the cabinet.”
The committee meeting participants were told that the province has over 24,000 safety gowns, 760,000 gloves, 944,000 surgical masks and 920,000 N95 masks available for doctors providing services to suspected coronavirus patients. In addition, 5,000 goggles, 44,000 shoe covers and 40,000 packs of sanitisers are available for paramedics.
Briefing the media, the chief minister also highlighted that Chinese doctors would come to Pakistan for assistance in the treatment of coronavirus patients. “The government is negotiating with the private medical facilities to bring down the coronavirus test fee. The government has already converted five public hospitals into emergency centres for coronavirus patients and another camp hospital of 1,000 beds will be established in Lahore Expo Centre in case of any emergency,” the CM said while elaborating the measures taken by the government.
Meanwhile, on Buzdar’s instruction, the Chief Minister Fund for Corona Control has been set up.
Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi also met with the CM and discussed the prevailing situation with particular reference to measures taken in Punjab for protection against the virus. Elahi pointed out that all MPAs, including the speaker and deputy speaker, and grade 16 to 22 officers of the Assembly Secretariat would deposit their one-month salary in the fund.
In this regard, the speaker held consultations with the parliamentary leaders of Tehreek-e-Insaf, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Peoples Party, Pakistan Muslim League, Rah-e-Haq Pakistan and independent members and heads of parliamentary committees about depositing the salary in the fund.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 22nd, 2020.