NCOC meeting suggests strict punitive action against anyone found violating social distancing guidelines
Pakistan’s Ministry of Health plans to mobilize retired doctors of public sector hospitals, young doctors, doctors currently completing house jobs, and final year medical students to help reduce the burden on healthcare workers on the front-line of the country’s coronavirus fight, Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza said on Sunday.
Participating in a meeting of the National Command and Operation Center chaired by Planning Minister Asad Umar in Islamabad, Mirza said the new doctors and paramedics would also be recruited through walk-in interviews.
Earlier, while reviewing the existing burden on the country’s healthcare facilities, Umar claimed there were sufficient ventilators available in hospitals across the country to cope with the rise in confirmed coronavirus cases. He directed the authorities concerned to make public the latest data about the availability of beds and other related facilities to reassure the public.
The NCOC was told that in pursuit of this goal, a Resource Management System (RMS) would be rolled out across country from June 1 (today). Under the RMS, hospitals would share details on available resources; patients being treated; denial of admissions; and the availability of beds and ventilators.
Masks for all
During the meeting, Umar urged shopkeepers to strictly implement a “no mask, no service” policy for all customers to help curb the spread of COVID-19. The government, last week, issued a notification making the wearing of face masks mandatory for all public places, but apart from the federal capital, no punitive measures have been introduced for those violating the order, leading many to believe it’s a meaningless gesture.
The NCOC meeting also deliberated on the growing number of coronavirus cases following the government’s decision to relax lockdown measures, and decided to engage market associations to ensure the implementation of COVID-19 guidelines and standard operating procedures in letter and spirit.
Living with pandemic
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, the NCOC is developing a long- and short-term strategy to cope with COVID-19, titled “Living With the Pandemic” in a bid to continue easing restrictions while curbing the spread through strict implementation of standard operating procedures.
During the meeting, Umar directed authorities concerned to pursue a vigorous mass awareness campaign to highlight precautionary measures to contain COVID-19, adding that the government’s achievements thus far should also be highlighted.
The NCOC was informed that all provinces have been asked to ensure community mobilization, and set up call centers with up-to-date information on the COVID-19 situation in their respective jurisdictions by June 15. It was also informed that Sindh and Balochistan governments did not agree with the “smart lockdown” policy introduced by the federal government, and preferred to continue the existing home quarantine policy.
In addition to Umar and Mirza, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah, National Food Security and Research Minister Fakhar Imam, Economic Affairs Minister Khusro Bakhtiar, and Special Assistant to the P.M. on National Security Moeed Yusuf also attended the meeting.