ISLAMABAD - Warning that coronavirus cases may surge next month, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday said that the government took effective decisions in consultation with all provinces, including Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan to mitigate adverse impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

In his televised address to the nation, accompanied by his economic and health team, the Prime Minister said that although the numbers of coronavirus cases in Pakistan were lower than projected, they may increase in the future. He said this month the country is preparing to deal with increased coronavirus patients as hospitals are being fitted with the requisite equipment and facilities.

Imran Khan also said the country would stand victorious in the ongoing war against COVID-19 pandemic only if it succeeded to control the poverty despite the measures to contain the coronavirus.

“When this (coronavirus) will end, if there is a rise in poverty level at that time, it means we have lost the war. This crisis will mainly impact the poor class. This is a challenge. If we come out of this (crisis) without bringing more miseries to poor, we will win,” the prime minister said in his televised address to the nation accompanied by his economic and health team.

He said that cases will increase in Pakistan as they are increasing in other countries. He predicted that hospitals will be under real pressure between May 15 and May 25 when the cases surge.

He said for this the government is preparing and is in contact with relevant authorities regarding ventilators and personal protective equipment, adding that National Command and Control Centre is engaged in collecting data and statistics about the coronavirus situation on a daily basis.

 

The Prime Minister also dismissed rumours that the government was hiding coronavirus deaths. He contended by asking which foolish government would hide coronavirus deaths, since it is in the government’s interest that it gets full information.

 

“If we hide facts from people, will the cases disappear?” he asked. The Prime Minister expressed confidence that the government will not leave downtrodden segments of society alone in these testing times. He urged the police and law enforcement agencies to adopt soft and friendly behaviour with the public to make ongoing countrywide lockdown successful.

 

The Prime Minister sought cooperation of all stakeholders, including media and civil society in lessening the burden on the common man during the lockdown. He also paid tribute to doctors, paramedics and others staff affiliated with the healthcare sector for their frontline role in the war against COVID-19.

 

The Prime Minister also ordered keeping a strict vigil on the demand and supply of wheat and other commodities to avert any shortage during the holy month of Ramazan. The Prime Minister again warned that government will take strict action against those involved in hoarding, smuggling, and corruption across the country.

 

He said an ordinance about hoarding has already been enforced while another ordinance about smuggling will be enforced within a day. He said the government decided to open the construction industry keeping in view problems being faced by labour and business class.

 

Speaking on the occasion, Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar said precautionary measures should be followed, including social distancing, during the ongoing battle against coronavirus.

 

Asad Umar urged the opposition leaders to refrain from politicising the prevailing situation and join hands with the government in the ongoing fight against COVID-19.

 

In his remarks, Minister of Industries and Production Hammad Azhar said the government will announce another relief package for small business entrepreneurs within two weeks. He expressed the confidence that the government is mulling the option of providing interest-free loans and relaxation in electricity bills to small business entrepreneurs in near future. Speaking on the occasion, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Security Division Dr. Moeed Yusuf said the government will soon allow commercial flights to resume their operations.

 

Prime Minister’s Focal Person Dr. Faisal Sultan, on the occasion, said that scientific analysis of coronavirus data is being done to reduce burden on healthcare system.