ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Friday extended the countrywide lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic for 15 more days – until May 9 – amid doctors’ warnings against easing restrictions and the number of Covid-19 patients in the country surging past 11,500.
The decision was made during a meeting of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) on Covid-19 chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Addressing a news conference at the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Covid-19, Federal Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Minister Asad Umar said the lockdown had been extended in consultation with the governments of the four provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
Umar, who heads the NCOC, further said the ‘trace and track system’ announced by the premier a day earlier to identify Covid-19 cases would be launched from Saturday (April 25).
He elaborated that the NCC would only oversee the trace and track system and the provincial governments, information technology institutions and civil and military organisations would be involved in the process.
Govt steps up testing for ‘smart lockdown’
“This is a complete national response formulated by the federal government,” he said, adding that the provinces would mainly be responsible for the implementation of the decision.
“Consultations were held with chief secretaries and the health ministers at the NCOC [for the trace and track system],” he explained.
Umar noted that holy month of Ramazan would be decisive in determining the trajectory of coronavirus cases in the country.
“If people act irresponsibly and don’t follow precautionary measures, then we will be compelled to impose more restrictions,” he warned.
“But if people take precautions recommended by doctors and observe social distancing, the government may be able to ease some restrictions by Eidul Fitr.”
Umar also said the prime minister had instructed the power division to ensure there were no power outages at Iftar and Sehar timings during Ramazan across the country.
Speaking about steps being taken to combat the disease, the minister said the government was making all-out efforts to enhance testing capacity so that the actual number of infected people in the country could be ascertained.
On relief efforts, Umar said almost half of the money allocated for Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme had been distributed among the underprivileged, adding that the relief scheme would continue throughout Ramazan.