Army called in to enforce virus SOPs


-PM warns of complete lockdown in big cities
-Urges masses to adopt preventive measures against COVID-19
-Asks nation to back govt’s efforts to curb virus 3rd wave

By Ajmal Khan Yousafzai

ISLAMABAD: Warning that Pakistan could face the same situation as in India, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday appealed to the public to adhere to the government-prescribed SOPs to control the third wave of the coronavirus. Prime Minister Imran Khan warned that if the surge in COVID-19 cases continued, the government would be compelled to impose lockdown in big cities.
“If the required precautions are not taken, we will have to go for a lockdown, the economy, business and industry, all will suffer and the segment most affected would be our poor people,” the Prime Minister said in a televised address after chairing the meeting of National Coordination Committee for COVID-19.
The prime minister urged the masses to adopt preventive measures against COVID-19 so that the situation remained under control and the lockdown could be avoided.
He regretted that the people were not observing the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) as they did during the first wave.
“If masses act the same way as last year, we can address the situation in a better way,” he said and added that Pakistan was the only country that did not shut down its mosques during the last Ramazan.
However, he pointed that this time, the majority of people were not careful and were not observing the SoPs. He said no doubt there was the issue of pandemic fatigue, however, stressed the need to enforce strict implementation. He said the assistance of the police and the armed forces could be sought to ensure the implementation of the SoPs. The Prime Minister mentioned the critical situation in India where the country witnessed a severe shortage of vaccine across. “Even the vaccination started at the moment will still take up to one year to get it to contain,” he said, adding that in the meantime, adhering to SOPs and wearing face masks was the best prevention. Minister for Planning Asad Umar in his remarks said the NCC meeting agreed on shutting down all non-essential businesses by 6 pm, while the offices would operate till 2 pm. He said this would allow the people to go for necessary shopping. He particularly urged the women to do their Eid shopping earlier and not to wait for the last week ahead of Eid.
He said a new policy was in the offing for international travellers, their quarantine and vaccination procedures and said it would be announced in the next one to two days. He said there would be strict enforcement of the 50 per cent work-from-home policy and a complete ban on outdoor dining till Eid. He said there was also pressure on the country’s oxygen supply and its plants were operating at 90 per cent of their capacity. He said of this, around 80 per cent was being used for the COVID-19 patients only. He said the meeting also deliberated on how to improve the oxygen supply and if needed, necessary steps would be taken to import it. Dr Faisal, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health said the daily number of critical patients was over 4,000 a day, which was far higher than the previous two times. He said this coupled with the 10 per cent positivity rate reflected that the pandemic was spreading. In some cities, he said the rate was 20 per cent or more putting serious strain on the health system. “We have apprehensions that the situation may worsen, and then we will be forced to take tough decisions and go for a lockdown.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said owing to Pakistan’s immense tourism potential, the government was focused on exploring the sector for revenue and employment generation. “Pakistan can earn money from tourism alone, both local and international, by revamping the infrastructure and ensuring facilities for tourists,” the prime minister said at the cheque distribution ceremony under Ehsaas scholarships and Kamyab Jawan Programme. The prime minister, who earlier inaugurated the Kohsar University at the hill resort of Murree, said the world-class institution would play a key role in imparting the local student’s necessary skills in hotel management and tourism. Imran Khan said education was vital in the development of a nation as no nation could progress without attaining higher learning. He said education about tourism would help the new generation learn proper techniques to pursue a career in the booming sector.
The Prime Minister said the previous government spent Rs 830 million on the beautification of the Punjab House for their personal use, however, now the facility was being opened for tourists. He mentioned that Pakistan’s northern areas, its deserts and the areas of Balochistan offered a diverse range of tourist destinations. He said Pakistan’s domestic tourism has doubled in recent areas and once the pandemic was over, tourists from across the world would be visiting Pakistan. He said Switzerland, which was half the size of Pakistan’s northern areas and even did not match its breathtaking natural beauty, was earning US 60 to 80 billion dollars annually from tourism alone. Pakistan, he said, has far more scenic areas which can boost our tourism potential. Imran Khan regretted that the previous governments used the beautiful Murree resort for rest and recreation only, but did not bother to construct even a single good hospital.
The prime minister said the uplift of poor and neglected sections of society key to a nation’s progress, adding that he had learned from the life of Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) that serving the poor and downtrodden people brings blessings of Allah and leads to prosperity.