Information minister claims government monitoring situation in ‘planned and organized manner’
The Government of Pakistan will resort to stricter lockdown restrictions if the public continues to flout Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) introduced to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, Information Minister Shibli Faraz said on Wednesday.
“Coronavirus [cases] have started rising rapidly in Pakistan,” he told a press conference in Islamabad, while echoing claims by Prime Minister Imran Khan that the “coronavirus pandemic has caused less damage than we expected.”
He claimed the government was monitoring the situation in a “planned and organized manner,” adding that it was incumbent on the public to adopt SOPs to protect themselves from the pandemic. “If the public doesn’t follow the SOPs, they are responsible for contracting the virus,” he said, abdicating any responsibility for curbing the spread.
“The virus can infect anyone without discrimination,” he said. “On a global level, the world’s largest economic powers and major health infrastructures have not been able to cope with the coronavirus pandemic,” he said, adding that Pakistan was a poor country where 75 percent of the population depends on business and daily wages to earn livelihoods.
“Look at India, they enforced a strict lockdown but people went out and the condition there is dire,” he said, even though India now has approximately 0.15 confirmed deaths due to COVID-19 per million people against Pakistan’s 0.34.
Economy above all
The information minister claimed that any coronavirus response strategy developed by the government or Prime Minister Imran Khan was focused on ensuring the economically weak sectors of the citizenry did not suffer. “Projects initiated to hand out cash to the deserving people, such as the Ehsaas Program, were intended to help the impoverished maintain their livelihoods,” he said.
“Our second priority was to let business operations resume, which we did in a phased manner and eased the lockdown,” he said, in reference to the government declaring markets, mosques and public transport to be reopened without deliberating on SOP violations.
To save lives while ensuring the economy was not impacted, said Faraz, the government had introduced SOPs, but “the majority of people are not following the SOPs.”
He warned that if people continued flouting the SOPs, they would inevitably contract the deadly virus. Parliamentarians have also started testing positive for the coronavirus, he added.