LAHORE: [fbvideo link="https://www.facebook.com/PTIOfficial/videos/732089387560478/"][/fbvideo]
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday decided against the Punjab government’s proposal to impose a complete lockdown in the province again in the wake of the exponential rise in Covid-19 case in recent days.
However, he directed the provincial government to impose “smart lockdowns” in virus hotspots, particularly in Lahore, and ensure that standard operating procedures (SOPs) to prevent the disease from spreading were being followed.
He also warned that those found violating the SOPs and not following the guidelines would be dealt with sternly by the government.
A day earlier, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar had chaired a meeting at his office to review the coronavirus situation and decided to send recommendations to the Centre to tighten restrictions in Lahore and other parts of the province to stem the spread of the disease.
After meeting Buzdar, Punjab Governor Muhammad Sarwar and other officials during in his visit to Lahore, the prime minister said the government would not re-impose a complete lockdown to safeguard the interests of daily-wage earners and other vulnerable segments of the society and would adopt a “smart lockdown” policy.
“The government has decided to identify and seal the worst-hit areas,” the premier said while addressing a news conference accompanied by Buzdar and Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid,
“It’s very difficult but we are trying to keep the economy running while taking measures to prevent the virus from spreading further,” he added.
Neither the local administrations, nor police are in a position to impose a strict lockdown.”
The premier said the volunteers of the Corona Relief Tiger Force would assist local administrations in tracing violations of SOPs.
PM Imran reiterated that developing countries like could not afford a complete lockdown. “Pakistan is neither Singapore, nor America that it can take such measures,” he maintained.
“A large number of country’s population relies on daily or weekly wages,” he added.
The prime minister said the coronavirus pandemic had equally affected both developed and developing countries.
He warned that coronavirus would spread exponentially because of the casual attitude of the people towards the disease.
“People have to show responsibility and comply with the SOPs to save the lives of their loved ones. The number of coronavirus patients had increased dramatically but things are still under control.”
The premier said the government had left it up to the citizens to comply with the SOPs, but from now on strict action would be taken against those flouting the guidelines.
“Everyone has to wear a mask when going out as the research has shown it can help reduce risk of contracting coronavirus by 50%.”
PM Imran said he would also visit other provinces to review the coronavirus situation there.
Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid pointed out that 30-40% space was still vacant at public and private hospitals across the province, though medical centres in urban areas were a little overburdened.
She added that around 10,000 beds were available for coronavirus patients in Punjab which would be enough for the next week or 10 days.
The government has initiated the process to acquire another 2,000 beds for coronavirus patients and they will be available by the end of this month.
She said there were 197 ventilators available at public hospital and 104 at private ones for coronavirus patients.
She also pointed that following intervention of the prime minister, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan had allowed import of the medicine Actemra from the US. Earlier, its import was allowed from Japan only.
“It [Actemra] is a trial drug which has shown promising results in some critical patients. However, it cannot be given to every patient as it could prove to be disastrous,” she explained.
The minister also said it had come to the government’s knowledge that some people were profiting off of this drug and decided to launch a crackdown against them.
The PM’s Focal Person on Coronavirus Dr Faisal Sultan said the government had developed a mobile application to trace coronavirus hotspots in the province.
“It will help the local administrations in enforcing strict compliance with the SOPs,” he added.
Dr Sultan elaborated that with the help of the mobile application, Corona Relief Tiger Force volunteers would help the local administrations in tracing SOP violations. “They [volunteers] will go in the field and record the violations using their mobile phones.”