| Imran Khan asks people to take virus threat seriously | Says country can’t sustain complete lockdown for longtime | Warns any laxity in compliance of SOPs not to be tolerated | Visits Ehsaas Emergency Cash transfer centre in Lahore

LAHORE          -       Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday said that complete lockdown was not an option for a country like Pakistan where 25 percent of the total population lived below the poverty line.

“Our country cannot bear the economic fallout of the lockdown. It would mean complete economic closure and destruction. Pakistan has different economic situation when compared with countries like Singapore, Taiwan or Thailand which had small population with no social distancing issues”, he argued while addressing a news conference here after chairing a meeting to review the coronavirus situation in the Punjab province.

He was flanked by Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar, Provincial Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid,  Finance Minister Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht, Special Assistant to the PM Usman Dar and Focal Person on COVID-19, Dr Faisal Sultan

The prime minister further pleaded that if the economic activities come to a standstill, it would burden the daily wagers and laborers. A country like Pakistan cannot bear the brunt of a complete lockdown as 25 per cent of its population is already living below the poverty line, he added. The prime minister said that even the New York mayor had to declare bankruptcy despite having huge financial resources.

The prime minister affirmed that smart lockdown was the only option available under the current situation. He said that government would now be tracing out hotspots and close down those areas posing higher risks for the COVID-19 spread.

Admitting limitations of the police and civil administration which did not have the resources and manpower to tackle the issue, the prime minister said that volunteers of Tiger Force would be mobilized to assist the concerned authorities. Prime minister also declared that wearing of masks at public places would now be mandatory as this measure alone could prevent spread of the deadly virus by 50 percent. 

The prime minister also warned that the infections might reach their peak in the month of July as the people were not observing the SOP. “The main responsibility [of COVID-19 spread rests with the people as their careless attitude had increased the number of infections,” he observed.

He said that the government had relaxed lockdown restrictions only to keep the wheels of economy moving; but the people misconstrued that the pandemic was on the decline. The government, in fact, gave the people an opportunity to continue their economic activities by strictly adhering to the SOPs.

Prime minister warned that the government would no more tolerate any laxity in compliance of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) from now onwards.

“But it pains me to say that you have not shown compliance to the SOPs. The people should take the threat seriously. Their indifferent attitude can push the country into a disaster with the healthcare system crushing under the increasing number of patients,” he said. 

The prime minister lamented that majority of the residents here were not considering the virus as a real threat and putting the lives of the old and chronic ill people at risk. 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 were on ventilators.

She said that on the average, 40 percent of the health facilities were vacant and available for the coronavirus patients in the province. Health minister also thanked the prime minister for asking the National Disaster Management Authority to provide 1,000 oxygenated beds to the province and allowing 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 as the injection had 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. He informed that a specified mobile app had been designed to help volunteers of the Tiger Force to communicate with the district administration regarding any violations of SOPs in markets and public place.

Dr Faisal Sultan said the government had prepared “modern and sophisticated” software to help it identify coronavirus hotspots around the country.”This will enable the administration to enforce a smart lockdown where needed,” he said.

Prime Minister Imran added that volunteers of the government’s Corona Relief Tiger Force will go into these areas [hotspots] and report violations of SOPs in the month of July. He said the Tiger Force will use this technology to report violations of SOPs and the government will act accordingly on their reports.

Concentrating on promotion of construction sector

Prime Minister Imran Khan visited cash transfer centre established under Ehsaas Emergency Cash program for needy persons in Lahore on Saturday.

Speaking on this occasion, the Prime Minister said government is concentrating on promotion of the construction sector in the present circumstances, so that the labour and downtrodden segment of the society could avail employment opportunities. He reviewed the process of cash transfer among the needy persons. Special Assistant on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr. Sania Nishtar briefed the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister also interacted with the people present at the center and inquired about the employment situation.

Efforts to overcome locust attack

Prime Minister Imran Khan Saturday directed the Punjab government to put in all their efforts to overcome the challenge of locus swarms to protect the farmers’ crops.

In a meeting held here to discuss the Punjab government’s arrangements to get rid of the locusts, the prime minister expressed satisfaction over the strategy and advised the provincial government to include the farmers in the process.

Federal Minister for National Food Security Syed Fakhar Imam, Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar and senior government officers attended the meeting.

The director general of Provincial Disaster Management Authority, while apprising the prime minister on the steps being taken in collaboration with the provincial and district administrations, said the locusts had been controlled to a large extent using the latest machinery and enforcing an effective strategy.

The prime minister was told that the province had also enhanced its capacity to eliminate the locusts.

PM witnesses agreement signing of Ring Road SL-III

Prime Minister Imran Khan Saturday witnessed signing of Concession Agreement between Government of Punjab and National Logistics Cell for construction of Lahore Ring Road- Southern Loop (SL-III) Raiwind Road to Multan Road.

With the construction cost of around Rs-10 billion, it is the second largest infrastructure project in Punjab in PPP (Pubic-Private Partnership) mode. The first one was Lahore Ring Road- Southern Loop-1 and 2 project.

The project will be executed as 25 years BOT project with construction period of one year.

It will act as major connection for GT Road, Sialkot Motorway and existing Ring Road sections with Multan Road (N-5).

The prime minister was informed that design features of the project have comprehensively been reviewed and include environmental aspects too.