ISLAMABAD - Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar on Sunday expressed confidence that the decision to ease lockdown in phased manner will be implemented in consultation with all the stakeholders.

While addressing a news conference, he said the decision was taken in consultation with all the federating units. He said big policy-level decisions were taken and now it is time for their implementation.

The Minister expressed satisfaction that the people have acted with responsibility but now they need to more strictly follow the precautionary measures after the easing of restrictions to avoid spread of the virus.

He said the decision of easing restrictions was taken to provide livelihoods to the people as they cannot be kept away from business for long time.

Currently there are eighty-five people on ventilators and 165 on oxygen

Asad Umar said the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) had been working March 31, without any break to take the timely decisions and actions to address the situation arising out of coronavirus. He said the testing capacity was being enhanced considerably and added that 13500 tests were carried out on Saturday (May 9, 2020).

He said there are now 70 labs fully equipped to carry out coronavirus

tests. Currently there are 85 people on the ventilators and 165 on oxygen, he told reporters. The Minister said a system is being developed in order to ensure efficient response in case the coronavirus cases spike in the coming days. He expressed satisfaction that the trajectory of coronavirus cases is not as serious as was witnessed in some other countries. He, however, said that the country was preparing for the worst situation. A portal will soon be made operational to update record of hospitals and patients, he said.

The Minister said that smart lockdown is being enforced only in hotspot areas. Currently, the smart lockdown is in place in 359 areas of Punjab and 177 areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He said the authorities were also engaging with the rural support programs not only to create awareness amongst the rural population about the contagion but also to provide relief to the deserving families.

Asad Umar urged upon every individual to take responsibility of adopting precautionary measures issued by the government and health departments to control the coronavirus. “Apart from all efforts of health teams, administration and use of technology to contain the disease, the most powerful activist is every individual who has the responsible to not only save himself but to save the whole society and the country from the disease,” Asad Umar said. Appreciating the people’s behaviour, he expressed satisfaction that majority of the people were following the precautionary measures issued by the government to prevent spread of COVID-19.

Asad Umar, who chairs the NCOC on coronavirus, said it had become even more important to adopt precautionary measures when the government had decided to ease lockdown to provide the people opportunities of earning livelihoods.

He said the situation of coronavirus in the country was not out of control, however in case of any emergency, the government was fully prepared to cope with the situation. The minister said the decision of gradual lifting of lockdown was unanimously taken to ensure that the daily wagers and small businessmen should not lose their source of income.

Asad Umar said the big policy decisions had already been taken and now the government was ensuring operational implementation on the ground. He said all provincial and federal government departments and armed forces were working together to implement this system. He specifically appreciated the NCOC team who was working diligently since March 31 without any break.

Earlier in the day, the NCOC was informed that a comprehensive disinfection policy would be devised by the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination to ensure sanitization of different localities in the wake of coronavirus. “In a meeting with the health ministers of all the provinces, we have agreed on five things that include systematic investigation of COVID patients’ deaths, zero prevalence study of the virus, post-quarantine policy, guideline for disinfection and resource management in hospitals,” Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, Dr Zafar Mirza apprised the meeting.

The meeting of NCOC, chaired by Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar, was also attended by NCOC National Coordinator Lt Gen Hamood Uz Zaman, Federal Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minster on National Security Moeed Yusuf and others, according to the officials.

Dr Zafar said that it was agreed that detailed Standard Operating Procedures needed to be issued regarding the disinfection of the areas.

“We need to be more systematic while investigating deaths of the COVID-19 patients,” he said, adding that a uniform approach for the purpose would be issued shortly. He said the provinces had been informed about the system built by the National Information Technology Board to indicate availability of ventilators and bed occupancy in the country’s hospitals.

NITB Chief Executive Officer Shabahat Ali Shah, while giving presentation to the NCOC about the system, said that it was meant to facilitate the policymakers in decision making over the coronavirus. He said all the public sector hospital managements had been given access to the system, enabling them to update the data of their resources recently. Asad Umar underlined the need for providing access to the website to the provincial health authorities to ensure regular updating of data regarding the availability of beds and ventilators in all the hospitals.

Planning Minister appreciated the services of healthcare professionals, rescue workers, cleaners and other frontline workers and said that it was the responsibility of every citizen to follow precautions so that the virus spread doesn’t get out of control. He said that the government will seal areas that have been identified as the hotspots of coronavirus. He said that virus hotspots are being identified through latest data and technology. He said that the government will use technology to trace coronavirus cases and identify virus hotspots throughout the country to enforce smart lockdown.

Sindh CM allows reopening of markets but not shopping malls

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has given the permission to open all markets except shopping malls across the province from Monday (today).

A delegation of Karachi Traders called on Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah in Karachi on Sunday and the matters to operate business activities were discussed. The chief minister said that all markets will open from 06:00 AM to 05:00 PM under the Standard Operating Procedures.

He stressed that traders would be responsible for the implementation of SOPs and if the Corona cases escalate, strict decision would be taken.