LAHORE: The Punjab government has announced a partial lockdown in the province for 14 days. The government has also banned pillion riding. All public and private offices, shopping malls, markets, parks, restaurants and tourist spots will remain closed till April 6 morning to check the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Following the provincial cabinet committee’s meeting on anti-coronavirus steps, Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar made this announcement on Monday over a video-link briefing.
Buzdar cleared that it was neither a curfew nor a lockdown but an initiative taken in the greater public interest to encourage social distancing to minimise the spread of the deadly virus. However, the province will remain closed from March till April 6.
He highlighted that all medical stores and pharmacies, grocery shops, fruit and vegetable shops and markets, bakeries, meat and milk shops, medicine and food factories and other essential services will remain open. The utility companies, telecom companies except for franchises, ambulance, welfare and emergency services will be exempted from this restriction.
Despite impact of virus, Pak-China trade to improve in second half
Buzdar pointed out that pillion riding has been banned across Punjab, however, the law enforcing agencies officials and families are exempted from this ban.
The chief minister paid rich tributes to doctors and paramedics and termed them ‘frontline soldiers’. He announced that the provincial cabinet would soon announce a package for them.
Responding to a question, he said under the convenorship of Punjab finance minister, the committee has chalked out a social protection package which would be announced after approval from the provincial cabinet. “It will help in easing difficulties of daily wages workers and the low-income segment of the society,” Buzdar said.
He appealed to the citizen to remain in their homes to help curtail the spread of coronavirus, otherwise, the law enforcing agencies would take action as per the law.
The government has already imposed Section 144 on all kinds of public gatherings across Punjab. He revealed that the number of confirmed COVID-19 patients has surged to 246 across Punjab, including the largest number of patients 171 in Dera Ghazi Khan quarantine centre.
Buzdar also appreciated the public cooperation for staying at home for two days and said it was the best way to stop the spread of coronavirus. “By staying at home, we can save our lives as well as the entire community.”
He also praised armed forces, civil administration, local government officials and media for performing their functions in these trying times.
Answering another question, the chief minister said the province has no shortage of essential commodities and the government would ensure the sufficient supply of all commodities in the market.
Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid, Law Minister Basharat Raja, Minister Industries Mian Aslam Iqbal, Information Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan, MPA Musarrat Jamshed Cheema and secretaries concerned were also present on the occasion.
The Punjab chief minister also called a meeting of the provincial cabinet on today. In the 28th session of the provincial cabinet 17-point agenda will be discussed. The technocrats will brief cabinet members about the current situation of coronavirus spread and precautionary arrangements. The meeting will be attended by provincial minister, advisors, special assistants, chief secretary and secretaries concerned.
Earlier during the day, the chief minister inaugurated “Stay home, Stay Safe” awareness campaign at Chief Minister’s Secretariat. Under this special awareness drive, volunteers will spread messages to curtail coronavirus plying motorcycles and rickshaws in the city. The government has displayed anti-coronavirus messages on 850 motorcycles and 500 rickshaws in Lahore, while around 4,130 motorcycles will be used for this purpose across Punjab.
All major markets and commercial areas in the provincial capital remained close on Monday, except the medical stores, grocery shops, tandoors, fruit and vegetable shops. However, in some areas young children and youth were witnessed in playing grounds and parks in violation of the ban.
An important meeting was held at CM Office under the chair of Chief Minister Punjab Sardar Usman Buzdar and Corps Commander Lahore Lt-Gen Majid Ehsan.
Govt green-lights army deployment across country to fight coronavirus
The meeting reviewed the steps being taken to overcome coronavirus as well as the arrangements made for the treatment of patients. The participants agreed to employ every possible step for saving the lives of the people. It was decided that collective steps would be made to ensure 100% implementation on the government steps.
Corps Commander Lt-Gen Ehsan said full cooperation would be extended to the Punjab government to deal with coronavirus pandemic as it is a collective issue which needed joint efforts.
Chief Minister Buzdar said the Punjab government has sought help from the Army under Article 245, adding that armed forces have always extended full support in difficult times. The military and the political leadership will deal with this challenge in a befitting manner and all the resources of the Punjab government are available to counter the coronavirus pandemic, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 24th, 2020.