ISLAMABAD           -        Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar on Friday warned that the threat of coronavirus is not over and precautionary measures are needed during upcoming month of Muharram-ul-Haram.

While chairing a meeting at National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), the minister urged the federal and provincial governments to ensure public safety through effective measures against COVID-19 during Muharram. 

He said the coronavirus threat was still there and if proper standard operating procedures (SOPs) and health guidelines were not followed, there could be possible surge of infection again. He said if the same spirit was followed till Muharram, it would help to mitigate health challenges and to tackle spread of the virus.

“The people of Pakistan have been very responsive and they have shown great patience and compliance to the challenge of deadly virus,” said the federal minister. While talking about the government’s decision to lift restrictions and open up various sectors of the country including tourism sector and restaurants, Umar said that there is a need to ensure implementation of proper SOPs.

The NCOC meeting deliberated upon the strategy and measures to implement SOPs in the wake of opening up various sectors and upcoming two major events, including Independence Day and Muharram.

The forum was informed that a complete code of conduct had been made for ensuring social distancing measures, wearing face masks and SOPs ahead of these two events.

Federal Minister for Interior Brig (Retd) Ejaz Ahmed Shah, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Faisal Sultan and others also attended the meeting. Separately, the Senate Standing Committee on Defence under the chair of Senator Walid Iqbal visited NCOC and got a briefing on the measures taken by the government to tackle the virus.

The committee appreciated the efforts of the NCOC to tackle the infection and said that there was a positive change in the behaviours of masses due to the effective measures taken by the center. The committee was told that if the people did not ensure SOPs, the infection can surge again like other countries. The senators appreciated the role of civil-military cooperation to tackle the spread of the disease. “The people have started defeating coronavirus but still there is need to ensure preventive measures,” said Chairman Committee Senator Walid Iqbal on the occasion.

“Coronavirus is an unprecedented challenge and it is commendable the way the people have responded over it, “said Jamaat-e-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmed. The government needs cooperation of masses as they should be careful as long as the vaccine of the virus is not made available to us, said PML-N Senator Lt Gen (retd) Abdul Qayyum.

On this occasion, Senator Rehman Malik, the member of the Senate Defence Committee, said that NCOC has become a beautiful combination of working of civilian institutions and army together. He said that an impression being given was wrong that army had moved ahead to tackle the civilian matters. “The army belongs to Pakistan and we are Pakistanis,” he said adding that the people should not create this difference.  

“I have asked to (federal minister) Asad Umar to enlarge scope of the NCOC,” Senator Malik said. He said that Pakistan was facing challenge of other fatal diseases and NCOC should also include these in its system to tackle the same at national level. “I am thankful to Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa for taking the initiative of NCOC.”

Senator Malik said that the Senate Standing Committee on Interior to which he was the chairperson had examined that the civilian institutions having many lapses couldn’t handle the deadly Covid-19 challenge. “I had publicly said that the army should come to move ahead with own experience and even Army Media Corps should check the international travelers at entry points.”

“I am glad that Pakistan army intervened timely and offered its services and made NCOC a beautiful and professional institute,” he said.  Pakistan now can talk to the international community with security by showing these figures, he added