Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Saturday warned that a complete lockdown could be imposed in the country in a week if the Covid-19 situation continued to worsen. “[A total of] 90% of the oxygen available in the country is being used. Even if [we] bring in more, it won’t make much difference to the supply in the system,” he said while addressing a news conference at the Sindh Governor House, which was also attended by Opposition Leader in the Sindh Assembly Haleem Adil Sheikh.
The minister criticised the Sindh government, saying that the province was not cooperating with the Centre [in implementing Covid SOPs]. The minister pointed out that only 21% of the country’s population was following the standard operating procedures (SOPs) to prevent the spread of the virus, compelling the prime minister to seek assistance of the army to implement them. “If the SOPs are not followed, the situation might worsen. The prime minister has opposed a complete lockdown, but if the situation does not improve in a week, it will be the only option.” Fawad added that the government was trying not to impose a complete lockdown as it would affect workers and traders.
The minister said the virus positivity rate some districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa had reached 40%. “The burden of coronavirus patients on hospitals in major cities is increasing,” he added. Elaborating further, the minister said 90% of ICU beds in Lahore were occupied, followed by 88% in Gujranwala and 85% in Multan. The situation in Balochistan and GilgitBaltistan is better than other provinces. “The supply of oxygen to Karachi has not been affected as the number of Covid-19 cases is low,” Fawad noted. “If the virus positivity rate increases in Karachi, the [oxygen] supply of the entire country will be affected.”
The minister said coronavirus had wreaked havoc in India and there was a shortage of oxygen cylinders in the neighbouring country. “The prime minister and the foreign minister have expressed their good wishes for the Indian people,” he added. “The virus has suddenly surged in India because of [its prime minister Narendra] Modi’s election campaign,” Fawad claimed. “We are with the people of India in difficult times but our own situation is unsatisfactory.” The minister welcomed PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz’s decision to cancel her visit to Karachi.
He requested clerics to strictly enforce the Covid19 SOPs during prayers and Taraweeh in Ramazan. The minister said it was necessary to follow virus SOPs at Taraweeh and Eid gatherings. “Religious scholars should lead and guide us,” he added. He said the federal government wanted to introduce health cards in Sindh and include journalists in its housing scheme. “Unfortunately, the Sindh government did not contribute to the health card,” he claimed. Fawad said journalists would be provided with health cards under a special package. The minister also refuted the allegation that the state had compromised on its writ when it negotiated with a banned organisation, referring to its recent dialogue with the proscribed Tehreeke-Labbaik Pakistan. “The opposition should not politicise this issue,” he added. “An atmosphere of bitterness is not healthy for Pakistan.
Apparently, the PML-N want this bitterness to remain.” The minister said the Sindh government was not cooperating with the Centre and the PPP had not kept its promises. Fawad further claimed said Sindh had not accounted for the billions of rupees it had received from the federal government in the last two years. “The PPP has turned the province into ruins,” he added. He said Pakistan’s vaccination plan was better than that of Europe. On the issue of PTI’s estranged leader Jahangir Tareen, the minister said the former party general secretary was responding to the allegations against him. He added that PM Imran could not be blackmailed or pressured. “He [Tareen] is saying that he will face the trial.”
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