ISLAMABAD - Planning Minister Asad Umar has stressed the need for joint efforts of the nation to face the challenge of COVID-19 pandemic.

Briefing media after the meeting of National Command and Control Centre (NCOC) on Thursday, flanked by Information Minister Shibli Faraz, Asad Umar said that the federal and provincial governments were jointly working to cope with the pandemic. He said the federal government was extending its full support to the provinces in acquiring oxygen beds for the coronavirus-affected. He assured that 2,500 oxygen beds would be provided to the hospitals by the end of next month.

The Planning Minister said that the lockdown strategy about corona hotspots in 20 cities had been shared with the provinces. He said implementation of the strategy had started in Punjab, Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Islamabad, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Azad Kashmir, while its implementation in Balochistan would begin in a day or two. He said the NCOC meeting discussed implementation on Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to prevent the spread of the contagion, along with administrative measures in this regard.

The Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives said that the government hoped to curb the spread of COVID-19 through its targeted lockdown strategy. He said that all the provinces had been fully briefed about the steps being taken to curb the spread of the virus. “The NCOC is helping provinces with oxygenated beds. The prime minister has told us that supplying beds to the provinces should be a priority,” he added.

He further said that the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) had expedited its registration process in order to keep up to date with new drugs being introduced as potential treatments for COVID-19. He said that the NCOC had also decided that these drugs should be purchased in bulk and supplied to public hospitals so that those who were unable to afford the medicines could have access to them. The Planning Minister who is also heading the NCOC said that virus hotpots which were identified through technology would be sealed by the provincial governments.