ISLAMABAD: Amid soaring number of Covid-19 cases in Pakistan, the National Command and Control Centre (NCOC) “insisted” on Saturday that the marriage halls should be allowed with limited number of guests, but recommended that the educational institutions should remain closed till August.
Besides, the NCOC – the nerve centre to synergise and articulate unified national effort against Covid-19 and to implement the decisions of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) – decided to open more businesses in line with the feedback from the provinces and in compliance with the standard operating procedures (SOPs).
“The NCOC recommended that the educational institutions should be kept closed till August as the summer season and pandemic would be at the peak on July 15,” an official statement issued after an NCOC meeting, read. “The forum insisted that the marriage halls should only be allowed with limited number of guests, one dish and strict compliance of SOPs,” it added.
The contagious disease has continued to spread in the country as the national tally of cases rose to 68,307 by Saturday night, with 24,104 cases in Punjab, 27,360 in Sindh, 9,540 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 4,193 in Balochistan, 678 in Gilgit-Baltistan, 2,192 in Islamabad and 240 in Azad Kashmir. So far, 24,131 people have recovered, while 1443 lost their lives across Pakistan.
The NCOC meeting, chaired by Planning Minister Asad Umar, discussed the long- and short-term strategy on Covid-19 titled “Living with the Pandemic”. It was attended by Interior Minister Brig (retd) Ejaz Shah, Food Security Minister Fakhar Imam, Economic Affairs Minister Khusro Bakhtiar and Industries and Production Minister Hammad Azhar.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Information and Chairman China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority Lt-Gen (retd) Asim Saleem Bajwa, SAPM on National Security Dr Moeed Yusuf, SAPM on Health Dr Zafar Mirza and SAPM on Digital Pakistan Tania Aidrus were also present.
In the meeting, the NCOC sought provinces’ feedback on “negative list” with a view to finalising the recommendations of opening some more sectors of the economy which had been halted due to Covid-19 outbreak.
Govt asks masses to strictly follow social distancing measures to contain Covid-19
The forum emphasised the need for revising its communication strategy for better messaging and public outreach on the Covid-19 issue. The NCOC stressed that capacity building and restructuring of the national health services ministry should be done as per plans approved by the federal cabinet.
Speaking during the meeting, Hammad Azhar said that restaurants under the negative list would have to close their services or partially initiate their functions with only takeaway services, while Khusro Bakhtiar said that the National Integrated Management System should be put in place for better coordination between the federal government and the provinces.
The forum was also informed that resources for critical care would be increased owing to the surging risk of the pandemic. “The forum was told that the testing capacity of Covid-19 is being increased to 672,000 tests,” the statement read.
Addressing a press conference after the meeting, Dr Zafar Mirza said that owing to a sharp rise in the Covid-19 cases, the government was left with no option, except for making facemasks mandatory at mosques, markets, shopping malls, public transport, and other crowded places.
Revealing that the recovery rate of coronavirus patients was 36%, Mirza said that the rate of local transmission stood at 92%. He stressed that despite the spike in the cases, only around 25% of the health system was being utilised.
He said that 78 people, including four health workers, died of the virus in the last 24 hours, which he described as the largest number of fatalities in a single day in the country. He appealed to the masses to strictly follow precautionary measures to contain the spread of Covid-19 pandemic.
Mirza appealed to the people to strictly follow all the SOPs, avoid handshake and do not leave homes without any reason. He said that there were complaints about the violation of SOPs in markets by the citizens and shopkeepers.
He asked the masses to support the government’s efforts for relaxing the lockdown in order to restart businesses normal daily life activities. He added that the relaxation policy could be successfully implemented if people fully cooperated with the government and adopted the SOPs.
“Otherwise there are chances of spread of the disease,” he warned. “Still there is a threat of the spread of Covid-19. The people should continue to adopt protective measures as per directions to stem the increase in coronavirus cases.”
In order to create awareness among the masses about the preventive measures, he said, the government tried its best to publically share all SOPs. “The SOPs have been prepared for all persons keeping in view the prevailing disease situation.”
With input from APP