ISLAMABAD: The government on Thursday ordered the closure of major markets across the country after reports that the standard operational procedures (SOP) formulated to curb the spread of novel coronavirus pandemic were not being followed.
The announcement from Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) for Political Communication Shahbaz Gill came as the country crossed another grim milestone of surpassing China in the total number of coronavirus cases.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Imran Khan allowed opening of more sectors of economy under strict implementation of SOPs in order to protect the livelihood of the downtrodden, particularly the daily wage earners.
However, flouting of the SOPs appeared widespread. And on Wednesday, Information Minister Shibli Faraz had said that “majority of the people are not adopting precautionary measures” and warned that if the SOPs were snubbed, the government would have no other option but to reimpose the lockdown.
Speaking after a meeting of the National Command and Control Centre (NCOC), Gill said that the authorities concerned had initiated an operation against flouting of the SOPs. “An operation has been started in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P),” he said. “We all have to follow the SOPs.”
Earlier, Punjab’s chief secretary appraised the NCOC of the growing cases of coronavirus in the province. “In view of the increasing number of coronavirus cases, major markets in cities, including Lahore, Faisalabad and Rawalpindi, are being closed from today (Thursday),” he said.
The NCOC reviewed the overall pandemic situation in the country. It formed a team led by Dr Faisal Sultan, the prime minister’s focal person for Covid-19 and comprising specialists and management experts to visit various areas of country to assist local administrations in the current situation.
The executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) gave a briefing special session of NCOC. He said PIMS had 26 ventilators which were meeting the hospital’s needs. The forum was also informed that 3,660 doctors had signed up for Tele-Medical facility.
The meeting was informed that 115 people, 42 transports were fined for violations of the SOPs in Islamabad, while 83 shops and 22 industrial units had been sealed. Similarly, 907 persons were fined in Gilgit-Baltistan, where 440 shops had been sealed.
In K-P, the forum noted that 525 markets and shops and 16 transport terminals were sealed and fines were imposed on 3,553 people, 82 vehicles and 37 industrial units for various violations of the SOPs issued by the government.
Addressing a press conference in Peshawar, provincial government’s spokesperson Ajmal Wazir said that the government would not tolerate violations of the SOPs. “Those who will not follow them [SOPs] will be punished. Our district administrations are taking action against [those who violate SOPs],” he said.
“Open your eyes”, he asked the people, adding that the pandemic was a “reality and the situation is very bad”. Earlier, K-P Health Minister Taimur Jhagra said in a tweet that the government would be pursuing implimentation of the SOPs “much more aggressively”.
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar also said in a tweet that he had issued directions to authorities to take "strict action" against those who violated the SOPs. The government eased the lockdown to "avoid possible hunger and poverty” he said, but the SOPs were not being implemented at most places.
The development came as the country witnessed another day of very high number of new Covid-19 cases. As of Thursday evening, the nationwide tally reached 87,000 cases, crossing China’s tally of 82,933 cases since the start of the outbreak last December, according to the data of Johns Hopkins University.