Islamabad - Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday separately chaired two high level meetings to review the impact of the novel coronavirus in the country and expressed the hope that government will take every measure to tackle the growth of the virus.

Chairing a briefing on the implementation of the steps which were decided last week during the National Security Committee’s meeting, Prime Minister said that the novel coronavirus can be curbed if people take precautions “voluntarily” without panicking.

He underscored the severity of the situation and emphasised the importance of raising awareness among the masses so they can take appropriate precautions to protect themselves from the virus.

The prime minister added that he will address the nation over the issue but did not announce the date.

The chief ministers apprised the Prime Minister of the steps taken by provincial governments to control the virus from spreading and also discussed the challenges and future strategy.

Meeting of the National Coordination Committee on Coronavirus was attended by Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri, Interior Minister retired Brig Ijaz Shah, prime minister’s aides Hafeez Sheikh, Firdous Ashiq Awan, Dr Moeed Yousuf, Dr Zafar Mirza, Syed Zulfiqar Bukhari a nd other committee members.

The meeting was also attended by the chief ministers of all four provinces through video link.

In a related development, Prime Minister also chaired a high level meeting and constituted a high-level committee headed by Advisor on Finance Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh to safeguard the national economy against possible impacts in the context of effects of coronavirus on global economy.

The meeting deliberated upon impacts of the coronavirus on global economy and the state of Pakistan’s economy in that regard.

The Prime Minister directed the meeting to prepare a comprehensive policy for providing relief to the common man keeping in view the emergence of any possible situation. He also directed to ensure availability of essential items in abundance.

He emphasized that any complaint about hoarding and profiteering would not be tolerated, and in case of such a complaint strict action would be taken against the hoarders.

The Prime Minister directed Minister for Economic Affairs Hamad Azhar to engage the World Bank and international institutions so that any possible situation could be tackled.

The meeting was attended by Minister for Economic Affairs Hamad Azhar, Minister for National Food Security Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, Finance Advisor Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Commerce Advisor Abdul Razak Dawood, Special Assistant on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, federal secretaries and senior officials.

Meanwhile Prime Minister has also requested the renowned cleric Maulana Tariq Jameel to play a role for a temporary ban on religious gatherings in the wake of the virus’ outbreak and to also hold special prayers for the country.

The Prime Minister met Maulana Tariq Jameel and the two discussed measures taken to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country. The Prime Minister apprised the renowned religious scholar about the decisions of the National Security Committee (NSC) in the meeting.

Maulana Jameel will issue a statement pertaining to precautionary measures for containing the virus.

Both also avoided handshake as a precautionary measure advised by health experts during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

On Friday, the prime minister chaired a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) to cobble a unified approach to contain the outbreak.

The huddle was attended by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt-Gen Faiz Hameed provincial chief ministers, top advisors and cabinet members.

It was decided to close borders with Iran and Afghanistan, allow only three airports – Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore – to operate international flights in limited numbers while other airports will see domestic flights, and ban public gatherings.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has been tasked to coordinate with provincial governments and lead the fight against novel coronavirus. It was also decided to close all educational institutions until April 5.

The Pakistan Day parade on March 23 has also been cancelled.

The Sindh government has banned public gatherings, shut down educational institutions, postponed religious celebrations and closed shrines, marriage halls, cinemas, gyms, social clubs etc. Punjab government is said to have made a similar decision.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the education institutions have been closed till April 5 and suspended wedding activities around the province.

Balochistan has also limited activities and closed educational institutions until the end of March.

So far, the number of cases that have been detected in Pakistan is 136, the majority of which have been emerged in Sindh.