ISLAMABAD - Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr Zafar Mirza on Wednesday said that the government was pursuing a holistic strategy to combat the coronavirus.

In response to the WHO’s letter, he said, “We have made best sovereign decisions in the best interest of our people.”

Dr Zafar Mirza said that the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) established under the auspices of National Coordination Committee (NCC) for COVID-19 meets every morning at ministerial level. With the help of technical experts, participants review the disease data and trends very minutely and take a holistic view of the situation along with the provinces and develop recommendations for the NCC that is chaired by the prime minister and participated by all the chief ministers and the prime minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) while all decisions are made in NCC with consensus, he added.

He said that Pakistan was the fifth largest country in the world and largest country in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region which consists of 22 countries. “We are a low middle income country with majority population dependent on daily incomes.”

“Conscious of the disease spread and mortality and having put in place a very robust national coordinating and decision making mechanism at the highest level we have made best sovereign decisions in the best interest of our people.”

Mirza said, “We have to make tough policy choices to strike a balance between lives and livelihoods.”

“We have consciously, but gradually eased generalized lockdowns, but at the same time we have focused on enforcement of SOPs in shops, industry, mosques and public transport while mask donning has been made compulsory in the country.”

He said that along with this “We have developed a robust tracing, testing and quarantine policy to identify hotspots and cordon-off them. Currently there are more than 700 such smart lockdowns in place”, he said.

“Other plank of our strategy is ramping up of our health system capacity to cater to the growing number of patients”, he said. He said, “Our choice of policies has been guided by the best evidence available about the disease spread and our best assessment of the fast deteriorating socioeconomic conditions in the country.”

Mirza said that WHO was a UN specialised technical agency on health and they were our long standing partner in health including in this pandemic which we appreciate.

“We understand that it is their role to provide recommendations to member states, but understandably there is the health-lens whereas governments have to take into account a holistic picture and make decisions on relative risk assessment basis and this has been the case in Pakistan all along,” the statement concluded.

On the other hand, authorities confirmed at least 5,385 new coronavirus cases in the country over the last twenty-four hours taking the total tally to 113,702 on Wednesday.

These include 43,460 in Punjab, 41,303 in Sindh, 14,527 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 7,031 in Balochistan, 5,963 in Islamabad, 974 in Gilgit-Baltistan and 444 in Azad Kashmir. The death toll from the virus stands at 2,255 with 83 deaths reported over the last twenty-four hours. 23,799 corona tests were also carried out during this period. Some, 36,308 patients have so far recovered from the disease.