Prime Minister Imran Khan Saturday expressing his regret for the indifferent attitude of masses towards the deadly novel coronavirus pandemic, reiterated that the government would no more tolerate laxity in compliance of standard operating procedures (SOPs).

He said the government gave the people an opportunity to continue their economic activities by strictly adhering to the SOPs.

“But it pains me that you have not implemented those SOPs. The people should realize the threat seriously, as indifferent attitude can push the country into a disaster with the healthcare system crushing under the increasing number of patients,” the prime minister said in his televised address after chairing a meeting here to review the coronavirus situation in the Punjab province.

He was flanked by Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, Special Assistant the PM Usman Dar, Focal Person on COVID-19 Dr Faisal Sultan and provincial ministers Dr Yasmin Rashid and Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht.

The prime minister said they had reviewed the situation in Punjab and reached the conclusion that the majority of the residents had not been considering the virus as a real threat. By expressing ignorance, they were putting the lives of old and chronic ill people at risk, he added.

He said that now they had decided to go for the strictest restrictions by tracing out hotspots and would close down those areas posing higher risks for the COVID-19 spread.

He also admitted that the administration and police force did not have the resources and manpower to tackle the issue, and additional members of the Tiger Force would be mobilized in that regard.

Wearing of masks would be now mandatory and no one would be allowed to move without wearing a mask, he added.

The prime minister also warned that the infection would further spread and the month of July would be crucial as they had to face problems in that month.

“The main responsibility rests with the people to face the situation as the careless attitude had so far increased the infections,” he added.

Reiterating his stance over lockdown, he said it would have meant complete economic closure and destruction. Pakistan had different economic situation when compared with Singapore, Taiwan or Thailand, which had small population and economies with no social distancing issues.

About 25 per cent population of Pakistan had been living below the poverty line, he said. If the economic activities were halted, it would have burdened the lower income groups, daily wagers and labourers.

The prime minister said the smart lockdown was the only solution to the current situation.

He mentioned that the government took steps to keep the wheels of economy moving, and save the common man from financial burden. The government faced difficulties in presenting the current fiscal budget.

The prime minister said even New York mayor was declaring that they had become bankrupt despite having huge revenue and financial resources.

Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid said 10,000 COVID-specific beds were available in the province where out of 3,055 admitted patients, 215 were critical and 193 on ventilators.

She said on average 40 percent of the health facilities were vacant and available for the coronavirus patients in the province.

She thanked the prime minister for ordering the National Disaster Management Authority to provide 1,000 oxygenated beds to the province and allowed Roche company to import the much-needed Actemra injections from the United States other than Japan. But she strongly forbade the people to use the medicine without the expert advice for having adverse impacts in certain conditions.

Provincial Finance Minister Hashim Jawan Bakht said Bulgaria and South Korea had controlled the disease with the cooperation of volunteers. A specified mobile app had been designed to help the volunteers report the SOPs’ violations directly to the administration.

Dr Faisal Sultan said some extra precautions needed to be taken. The said software would also guide the administration in smart and targeted lockdown to contain the virus.

Usman Dar said out of one million registered volunteers, 225,000 had fulfilled their responsibility. He said the volunteers had successfully played their role during the Holy Month of Ramazan to ensure the enforcement of SOPs at mosques.