ISLAMABAD - Coronavirus cases in Pakistan on Monday crossed 72,000 with the emergence of 2,964 new infections over the last twenty four hours.

Sindh is the worst-hit by the pandemic with 28,245 COVID-19 cases followed by 26,240 cases in Punjab, 10,027 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 4,393 in Balochistan, 2,589 in Islamabad, 711 in Gilgit-Baltistan, and 255 in Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK).

As many 26,083 patients have so far recovered from the virus while the death toll has reached 1,543 with 60 deaths occurred during the last twenty four hours.

Meanwhile, a meeting held at the NCOC, chaired by the Minister for Planning & Development Asad Umar, was joined by the provincial Chief Ministers through video link.

The provincial Chief Ministers agreed to the negative list proposed by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) to allow the left-over closed economic and industrial sectors that were at a standstill due to the COVID-19 crisis to re-open.

Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar assented on the negative list and said that left-over sectors should be opened with strict compliance with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPS).

 

He suggested the forum should review the testing regime as every single individual could not be tested and the policy should be reduced to testing of only symptomatic and affected patients.

 

Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah agreed to the list underlining that opening of restaurants with compliance of SOPs was not possible as proposed in the negative list. He pointed out that there was no public compliance of SOPs which made it difficult to allow restaurants to operate.

 

Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mehmood Khan underlined that proper assistance should be provided to Pakistanis stranded in Saudi Arabia as it had become difficult for them to survive there amid COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The Parliamentary Secretary represented Chief Minister Balochistan Jam Kamal Khan and told the forum that compliance with SOPs was a major challenge in the province and, therefore, it was not possible to open up schools in the prevailing situation.

 

Chief Minister Gilgit Baltistan Hafiz Hafeezur Rehman also agreed to the proposed negative list and underscored the need for budgetary support for the territory to support its tourism sector - the backbone of the area - which was facing economic crunch due to the lockdown. He added that the available ventilators in the territory were already occupied, and requested the forum to provide its share from the procured ventilators of the federal government.

 

The meeting noted that the tourism sector in GB would remain closed till the outbreak risk reduces.

 

Prime Minister AJK Raja Farooq Haider Khan said that there was a need to deploy provincial health assets on the airports of the country for swift screening and credible data gathering. He said that the AJK administration fully agreed to the closure of the tourism sector till the pandemic persists.

 

Speaking on the occasion, Planning Minister Asad Umar said that provincial suggestions and reservations would be incorporated in the decision making.

 

He said that the national and political leadership at the forum had agreed upon the right to earn livelihood without jeopardizing other people’s life by spreading the virus, and that punitive actions should be undertaken to ensure strict compliance of SOPs.

 

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Security Dr Moeed Yusuf informed the meeting that testing regime for the airports was going to be abolished from the 2nd of June where only symptomatic patients would be tested on arrival whereas the asymptomatic arrivals would be home quarantined and put under the track and trace system. He added that two 777 aircrafts were leaving for KSA to bring back 26 dead bodies of the stranded Pakistanis.

 

 

Meanwhile, the provincial chief ministers agreed to the negative list proposed by National Command and Operation Centre to allow operational activities to the left over economic and industrial sectors halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The provincial chief ministers joined the NCOC meeting through video link which was chaired by Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar.

 

Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar expressed his agreement on the negative list aimed at allowing left over closed economic sectors with strict compliance of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPS).

Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah said that the negative list was agreed, however, opening of restaurants with SOPs compliance was not possible as proposed in the negative list.

 

Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mahmood Khan also supported the negative list. He highlighted the issues faced by overseas Pakistanis stranded in Saudi Arabia and requested the forum to provide assistance in this regard.

 

Chief Minister Balochistan was represented by the parliamentary Secretary who conveyed the comments of Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan. She mentioned that SOPs compliance was a major challenge in the province and, therefore, it was not possible to open up schools in the prevailing contagion.

Chief Minister Gilgit Baltistan Hafiz Hafeezur Rehman also agreed to the proposed negative list and said that GB had already closed the sectors flagged in the list.

 

AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider Khan said that there was a need to deploy provincial health assets on the Airports of the country for swift screening and credible data gathering. 

 

Asad Umar said national and political leadership at the forum agreed upon the right to earn livelihood without jeopardizing other people’s life by spreading the virus and that punitive actions should be undertaken to ensure strict compliance of SOPs.