–Imran says Pakistan ‘pioneered’ smart lockdown approach, urges masses to adhere to SOPs to contain Covid-19 spread
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has reiterated that the only solution to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic is to implement a “smart lockdown” and adhere to standard operating procedures (SOPs), as the country witnessed at least 97 deaths and 4,734 new cases in a record single-day spike on Saturday.
“A lockdown means collapse of the economy & in poorer countries a steep rise in poverty, crushing the poor as happened in Modi’s lockdown in India,” PM Imran tweeted.
“Only solution as world has discovered is smart lockdown which allows for economic activity with SOPs. We are amongst pioneers of this approach. I appeal to civil society, media, Ulema & our tiger force to create awareness amongst the public of COVID19’s severity & the need to strictly observe SOPs.”
He also shared a video of a private TV channel report, depicting the dilemma faced by the federal government.
“This video shows the dilemma confronting our govt today: On the one hand we have the masses who are not taking the COVID19 pandemic seriously & on the other hand, understandably, we have our frontline doctors & health professionals, who are at great risk,” he said and criticised the elites for demanding complete lockdown, saying that their income would remain unaffected regardless.
“Some of the elite wanting a lockdown — the elite who have the privilege of spacious homes & income unaffected by fallout of lockdown.”
On Friday, the premier ruled out the imposition of another lockdown in the country.
“Pakistan cannot go back to another lockdown. We can’t afford it,” the premier said in a televised address to the Corona Relief Tiger Force.
“That’s why we need you [Tiger Force] to spread awareness [about Covid-19 precautionary measures],” he added.
The prime minister maintained that if the force succeeded in convincing citizens into following Covid-19 guidelines, the rate at which the infection was spreading would slow down.
“Coronavirus will spread. You can’t stop it from spreading,” he said, adding that the lockdowns across the world had only exacerbated conditions for the poor.
The prime minister also defended the government’s decision to keep mosques open, maintaining that no virus cases were traced back to them.
“We were the first Muslim country which said we will not close our mosques and carry on Taraweeh prayers,” he said.
ASAD UMAR URGES TRADERS TO ADOPT SOPS:
Earlier on Saturday, Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Minister Asad Umar told a press conference at the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) that the two most essential components to slow down the pandemic were to follow precautionary measures advised by medical experts and to bring changes in everyday lifestyle.
The minister was hopeful that the nation will show the same discipline as before by taking precautionary measures and following standard operating procedures (SOPs) as the country completes 100 days of virus infections.
He appealed to leaders of commerce chambers and markets across the country to follow SOPs. “I appeal to all people to show the same discipline as before. For several weeks we saw people showing discipline to quite an extent and following SOPs but it was set aside in last week before Eid.”
“More than 1,900 precious lives have been lost in Pakistan, which shows the gravity of the situation,” he added.
He also cautioned people to not forward unverified messages on WhatsApp, saying that they were “not doing anyone a favour by creating panic”. He thanked frontline workers, including healthcare workers, policemen and staff at the Information Ministry for their services.
“The government is increasing beds, ventilators, training doctors and paramedics so that our health system doesn’t collapse if cases rise. Most of all, the government is focusing on how we can work together — all departments — to shore up our health system for best response,” Umar said.
The minister said district administrations across the country have been given strict instructions to take strict action against those violating SOPs.
More than 884 areas across the country have been under smart lockdown actions with more than 200,000 people impacted, the minister said.
He said work has been done to improve testing systems and now over 22,000 tests are being conducted daily.
He said on February 26 when first cases emerged there were only eight laboratories capable of testing people in the country. Now, this number has increased to dozens, Umar added. He said the number of ventilators in the country has seen two-fold increases in four months.
The minister said in addition scientific institutions of the country in collaboration with the private sector have started producing face masks and protective clothing.