During visit to NCOC, prime minister reiterates desire to keep businesses open in face of rising infections
Lauding the role of the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) in coping with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said Pakistan was braving the challenges posed by COVID-19 in a “balanced” manner in line with ground realities.
“We need a unified and well-coordinated joint national response to fight the disease during the next couple of months,” said the prime minister, who had on Wednesday slammed the Sindh government for “playing politics” over the pandemic. “Our actions will determine the extent of the crisis and success of our response through consensus,” he added.
Urging the nation to remain united in the battle against the coronavirus, Khan said citizens must strictly follow the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) issued by the government to contain the spread of the virus. “Protect the elderly and sick, especially those suffering from heart-related diseases and diabetes,” he appealed to the public, saying social distancing and mandatory face masks were essential to overcome COVID-19.
The prime minister directed all departments concerned to ensure the disease was brought under control, adding that special focus should be on the availability of medicines, oxygen supplies and beds in hospitals.
According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, Khan paid tribute to healthcare workers’ sacrifices, saying the entire nation recognized their contributions during this crisis. He also lauded media outlets for reporting on the pandemic responsibly, and cautioned them against sensationalizing future developments.
The forum’s participants reiterated that businesses must remain open during the pandemic, adding that strict implementation of SOPs would be ensured by raising public awareness and through administrative actions.
The NCOC claimed there had been a “decline in the number of coronavirus-positive cases” over the past four days, attributing this to the “smart lockdown” strategy implemented across the country from Saturday. This is unlikely, as health experts say any preventative measures take one to two weeks to show any effect on the rate of new infections.
The meeting was informed of the use of digital technology for contact-tracing and disease projection. “Smart lockdowns in hotspots identified through [the] use of technology tools recently deployed and developed by NCOC will be ensured,” it added.
Planning Minister Asad Umar, who heads the NCOC, and Maj. Gen. Asif Mehmood Goraya, the director-general of its operations and planning, briefed the prime minister and Pakistan Army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa “on the analysis of patterns of COVID-19 spread, pressure on hospitals, fatalities, and future projections,” read the statement. “[The] P.M. was also briefed on the steps taken so far regarding curtailing the spread of COVID-19 across the country, enforcement of SOPs, and strategy regarding the management of disease and implementation of decisions in coordination with all the stakeholders,” it added.
Apart from the federal ministers, Pakistan-administered Kashmir Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider Khan and the chief ministers of Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and Gilgit-Baltistan also attended the meeting via video link.
The lawmakers briefed the NCOC about the steps being taken in their respective areas, and acknowledged the federal government’s support in helping them overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.