ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has warned that strict measures for controlling the spread of the coronavirus will be imposed once again if there is no improvement in compliance with standard operating procedures (SOPs).
While addressing the nation following a meeting of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) on the COVID-19 coronavirus today, PM Imran said that there is a fear onset of winter that could result in the second wave of coronavirus if people do not follow standard operating procedures (SOPs) seriously.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said there has been a resurgence of COVID-19 cases across the country, adding that it has prompted the authorities to place several virus hotspots under micro smart lockdown for two weeks, he added.
PM Imran said NCOC recommended limiting all public gatherings to 500 people, including cultural, political, religious, entertainment, and civic gatherings.
“This is the time to take safety measures. If we do, we can slow down the pandemic. Just like earlier we were saved due to following safety steps, that time has come again,” PM Imran said, noting that coronavirus cases in Pakistan had augmented by four times in the past two weeks.
He said the entire world was seeing a second wave of the pandemic and in some countries like the US and England, infections had surpassed those seen during the first wave. Some Western countries are imposing lockdowns again to control the virus’s spread, The premier said added.
the government had been monitoring the trends of the spread of the covid-19 in the country, but noted that Pakistan had been “very lucky” during the first wave of the virus, he added.
PM Khan said not only had Pakistan been able to avoid widespread deaths, but its economy was also recovered when compared to other countries.
“But sadly the country has seen that our cases have risen by four times in the past two weeks. The 6-7 deaths that we were having per day have climbed to 25,” the prime minister said.
He said the government was concerned that hospitals in major cities would be full like in June if people didn’t follow the SOPs.
It was being reported that the virus had mutated and was spreading “at an even greater speed”, and expressed the fear the situation in Pakistan could worsen even more than in June — when the country saw its first peak of Covid-19, the premier said.
He said the easiest safety precaution that everyone must take is to wear a face mask when out in public, which can help slow the spread of the virus.
He also stressed that efforts must be made to avoid any crowds because they often result in a large number of people getting infected.
PM Imran said the “biggest example” of the government and the public combating Covid-19 together was that Pakistan was the only country in the globe that kept its mosques open during the virus in peak.
“This virus didn’t spread from the mosques because our imams and ulemas urged worshippers to follow SOPs,” he added.
Ruling out the closure of factories, shops and “anything that affects people’s livelihoods”, he urged that all businesses must follow the recommended SOPs. He said the government will monitor the implementation of SOPs and the Tiger Force will be directed to report violations.
The premier announced that the PTI was suspending its rallies across the country, in line with the NCC’s decision to end all activities that don’t affect people’s livelihoods.
“We have canceled our jalsas and will ask other parties to do the same because that is one place where the virus spreads rapidly,” he said, adding that infections had sharply risen in Gilgit-Baltistan after the recent election campaigns in the region.
Additionally, the prime minister said weddings will be allowed to be held only in open areas, with a maximum of 300 people and with everyone wearing a mask and maintaining distance. He said restaurants were being kept open for now, but they will 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 cut summer vacations short to a month,” he announced.
During a special session to monitor an increase in cases, the NCOC was informed that there is a clear resurgence of the virus while deaths are also increasing. All chief secretaries were asked to strictly implement SOPs, a statement issued said. The forum also identified markets, marriage halls, restaurants and public gatherings as high risk.
“Strict punitive actions on SOP violations will be initiated,” the statement said, adding that wearing of face masks and social distancing must be ensured.