PM Imran Khan addressing media in Islamabad. SCREENGRAB/RADIOPAKISTAN

Govt halts rallies amid rising Covid cases

PM Imran urges other parties to also cancel gatherings

Rizwan Shehzad   November 16, 2020

Prime Minister Imran Khan announced on Monday that the government has decided that there would be no more political rallies across the country, keeping in view the rapid increase in Covid-19 cases in a fortnight.

Amid charged political scenario, the prime minister said that the government had suspended its rallies, which were planned earlier, in line with the National Coordination Committee (NCC) recommendations that call for ending all activities that don’t affect people’s livelihoods.

“We have cancelled our jalsas and will ask other [parties] to do the same because that is one place where the virus spreads rapidly,” Imran said, adding that infections had sharply risen in Gilgit-Baltistan after the recent election campaigns in the region.

In a televised statement along with the key government ministers, the prime minister briefed the nation about the decisions taken in the NCC meeting regarding the spread of the coronavirus. The meeting came as the coronavirus cases continue to surge by more than 2,000 new cases every day.

The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) said in its daily bulleting that 2,128 more people tested positive for the deadly virus during the last 24 hours, while 19 coronavirus patients, who were under treatment in hospitals across the country died on Sunday.

While updating the nation about the decisions taken in the NCC meeting, Prime Minister Imran said that weddings would be allowed only in open spaces with no more than 300 people; while everyone would be required to wear face mask and maintain distance.

On restaurants and schools, Imran said that the restaurants were being kept open for now, but they would be required to ensure social distancing. “Regarding schools, we have decided to monitor the situation for another week. If we observe that the virus is spreading through schools, then we will extend winter vacations and reduce summer vacations,” Imran said.

By the grace of Allah, Imran continued to say, Pakistan remained safe in the previous Covid-19 pandemic wave as compared to other countries and the government was able to save the economy – though the service sector was affected to a great extent.

Tourism, wedding halls and restaurants were greatly affected, when the economy was shut down the last time, Imran said, adding that Pakistan emerged better than many countries after the first Covid-19 wave.

He said he regretted to reveal that Covid-19 cases had increased four times in the last 10 to 14 days, saying the number of causalities had also jumped from 6-7 to 25. He expressed fear that the increasing number of patients would increase burden on the hospitals the way it happened in June this year if SOPs are not followed.

He said that hospitals were full in all the big cities during the last Covid-19 attack. “God forbid it may get worse than that because we are seeing throughout the word that it is rapidly increasing,” Imran added.

Without specifically referring to anyone, Imran said, “some say” the virus had mutated and spreading quickly. “I say to my nation that this is the time to take precaution; if we take precautions here, we would be able to stop it and slow it down the way the people abide by the SOPs last time, it needs to do it again.”

Prime Minister Imran stressed that the number-one SOP was wearing mask. “It’s the easiest,” he said, adding that the world’s experience revealed that very few cases spread when people start wearing masks.

“All we need to do is to slow it down because it will definitely spread,” he said. “Slowing down the virus will reduce the burden on the hospitals. He added, warning that “we will be facing problems” if the burden was increased on the nurses, doctors and the hospitals.

Keeping in view the previous situation and the after deliberating on the current conditions, Imran said, the government had taken several decisions anticipating that the people would understand and follow SOPs.

“We emerged victorious because people supported us last time; the government and the nation fought together and, thank God, we remained safe,” he maintained. “The time has come again and you all have to take precautions.”

Emphasising on wearing masks, Imran said that the people knew that the disease spread wherever the people gather and come close to each other. Therefore, he said, there was a need to stay away from gatherings.

“We need to save our economy; we know India had to bear a huge loss for imposing lockdown; imposition of lockdown means closing of business and they have yet to come out of it,” the prime minister explained.

Pakistan came out of the pandemic earlier because the people practiced the SOPs, Imran said, sharing that the whole world closed down the mosques during Ramazan but Pakistan kept them opened and the virus “did not spread from the mosques because our scholars urged people to follow SOPs”.

Imran said that time had come again to follow SOPs – especially wearing masks and maintaining social distancing – at mosques and factories because the government was not in favour of doing anything that would affect peoples’ livelihood.

The government would be watching, he said while directing the Tiger Force to keep updating the authorities concerned about the ground situation on SOPs’ implementation. Explaining that the loss would be collective and not to any personality or government, he said, “everybody needs to follow SOPs.” It’s a test for all of us. If we follow SOPs we will be able to save businesses and economy.”

NCC decisions

The NCC issued a separate statement, detailing the decisions taken during its meeting on Monday. It said that the measures focused on the highest risk activities for spread of Covid-19, while trying to minimise the impact on economic activity.

The statement said that a ban on all outdoor gatherings of more than 300 persons is to be implemented. The prime minister announced a moratorium on political gatherings of his own party, starting with cancellation of an upcoming event in Rashakai, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Similarly, no indoor events would be allowed; it said, adding that only outdoor events with a maximum of 300 guests would be allowed. However, indoor dining would be allowed in restaurants for the time being but the situation would be reviewed after a week.

“In the meantime, the public is strongly encouraged to use either outdoor dining or takeaway options. This is in view of the high risk of transmission of the virus in closed indoor settings, especially when masks are taken off during eating,” the statement added.

About the educational Institutions, the NCC statement said that the option of early or extended winter vacations would be reviewed in a week's time in consultation with the federating units and the federal ministry of education. It reiterated the need for using masks in all closed and crowded spaces.

Covid Relief Fund meeting

Premier Imran chaired a meeting of the Policy Committee overseeing the Prime Minister’s Covid Relief Fund to review the fund utilisation details.

The fund was established in March 2020 to raise amount for the Covid-19 victims. “The fund received generous donations from within Pakistan and overseas. An amount of Rs4.8 billion was accumulated in the fund of which Rs1.08 billion was donated by international donors and Rs3.8 billion contributed domestically,” the Media Wing of the Prime Minister Office said.

Earlier this year, the prime minister had publicly announced two policies with respect to the fund, committing that it would be disbursed through the Ehsaas Emergency Cash to assist the Covid-19 job loss victims.

(With input from APP)



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