Federal cabinet meeting decides against declaring ‘health emergency’ over spread of coronavirus in Pakistan
A meeting of Pakistan’s federal cabinet on Tuesday rejected a proposal by the Health Ministry to declare a “health emergency” in the country due to the spread of the coronavirus, with Special Assistant to the P.M. on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan saying the government’s slogan was to “fight corona, not fear it.”
Addressing a press conference after the meeting, Awan said Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza had briefed the cabinet about the coronavirus situation in the country and the steps taken to tackle it. She reiterated that only five confirmed cases of COVID-19 had been reported in Pakistan so far.
Instead of declaring a “health emergency,” said Awan, the cabinet emphasized strengthening intra-provincial coordination to increase awareness about preventative measures among the people. She said the government had decided to quarantine people who had recently visited China or Iran, adding that arrangements were in place at all the entry points of the country to screen foreign travelers.
The de facto information minister said the cabinet had approved the Health Ministry’s request to purchase equipment to tackle the disease.
In addition to reviewing the coronavirus situation, Prime Minister Imran Khan took aim at the ongoing corporal punishment of children in schools across Pakistan and decided to ensure an immediate end to the practice. He said that in a civilized society, no one could be allowed to mete out physical punishment to children.
The prime minister, per Awan, also renewed his commitment to take action against anyone involved in profiteering, hoarding and adulteration. He told the cabinet that provision of relief to the people was the government’s main priority and directed provincial governments to devise an effective mechanism for calculating the demand and supply of edible items in the country.
According to the special assistant to the P.M., the cabinet was satisfied with the “pro-people” steps taken to provide relief to the masses from spiraling inflation. She said Planning Minister Asad Umar had briefed the cabinet on the improvement of economic indicators. Meanwhile, Energy Minister Omar Ayub Khan presented a comprehensive roadmap on demand and supply of electricity, high rates of utility bills, circular debt, infrastructure and related issues. The cabinet, while appreciating the efforts of the Energy Ministry, called for more work to check overbilling and high cost of electricity. The prime minister also issued directives to work out plans for the energy sector for next 25 years.
The cabinet was informed that Turkey had expressed willingness to assist Pakistan in reformation of its power system, as Ankara had introduced reforms to protect consumers’ rights and bring electricity tariffs down.
Discussing the matter of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s return to Pakistan from London—where he is receiving medical treatment—Awan said the Foreign Ministry had written a letter to the U.K. seeking his deportation as he was not admitted to any hospital despite staying in London for 105 days. Awan accused the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader of misleading his supporters, claiming his latest medical reports—which the government recently branded as ‘insufficient’—showed that he was healthy enough to serve out his sentence in Pakistan. “On the recommendations of the same board, the federal government has decided to bring Nawaz back to the country,” she said.