LAHORE             -              In a major decision to control the spread of the deadly virus, Punjab has decided to close its boarder for the travelers coming from Sindh as only the goods transport will be allowed to enter the province.

Also, in anticipation of complete lockdown of cities in the days to come, the government has decided to set up special fund amounting to Rs 5 billion to combat the COVID-19. Social Security Authority has been directed to compile data of families affected by the disease for financial assistance. It has been decided that only the essential staff will be required to attend offices in a bid to reduce mutual contact of the employees. 

These decisions were made at two meetings separately chaired by Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar and Punjab Chief Secretary Major (R) Azam Suleman.  Chairing a high-level meeting, the chief minister announced to set up a special fund worth 5 billion rupees to overcome the disease. The meeting was told that Rs 230 million had already been issued to the health department, while one billion rupees additional funds had also been allocated to cope with any emergent situation. Chief minister said that government will provide more resources to secure the lives of the people. He directed to arrange diagnostic kits at the earliest, adding that there should be no shortage of medical equipment.

He said the Punjab government wanted to set up a quarantine facility in Taftaan from its resources and directed the departments to take steps in collaboration with the Balochistan government

Usman Buzdar also directed to initiate indiscriminate crackdown against the mafia involved in hoarding of masks and sanitizers so that availability of these items could be ensured at reasonable rates. “Jail is the best place for those who loot the people”, he said.

The meeting chaired by the chief secretary was briefed that production of masks, gloves and sanitizers has been started locally. whereas 270,000 masks have been recovered during action against hoarding in Rawalpindi. The meeting also decided tracking of the passengers arriving from China, Saudi Arab, Iran and other coronavirus-hit countries and ensuring availability of sufficient quantity of sanitizers and soaps/ hand wash at opened offices, banks, shopping malls for hand washing during operational hours.

The meeting decided that entry of only goods transport would be allowed in Punjab from Sindh whereas all other road traffic from Punjab to Sindh and vice versa would not be permitted. Chief Secretary directed that there would be a complete ban on holding of wedding or other ceremonies in farmhouses. He said that in the light of government’s decision all meetings would be held through video link, Skype calls and online conferencing. He further directed that only skeleton staff would attend the offices whereas the remaining officials would work online through Skype from their houses.

He mentioned that entry of general public in government offices has been suspended in view of their own protection and social distancing. However, all administrative secretaries, divisional commissioners, deputy commissioners, and heads of attached departments would notify, in press, two landline numbers and one mobile number for contact of general public during office hours. These numbers would also be displayed prominently outside offices at entry gates and officers of grade 17 and 18 would be deputed to attend calls on these numbers so that people could not face any problem in resolution of their problems, he added.

He asked all civil and police officers to ensure compliance with the orders about closures of all shops, shopping malls and restaurants till 10pm as no negligence would be tolerated in this regard. The Chief Secretary also directed commissioners and deputy commissioners to prepare lists of family members of the persons being kept in quarantine and provide food hampers to families in case their bread earners in quarantined. He also issued instructions to administrative officers to contact owners of private hospitals and hotels for establishing more isolation rooms in these buildings.

The meeting decided that desks would be set up for public outside offices of SHOs in police stations and police khidmat centres would remain closed till further orders. People can lodge their complaints with these desks instead of visiting the office in police station. The meeting also took decision to close all public parks and recreational places in the province, besides enhancing the number of Panahgahs in cities.

All deputy commissioners were asked to carry out mapping of hostels in their districts so that quarantine facility could be provided at these buildings in case of emergency.

The meeting chaired by the chief minister reviewed the proposal of shutting down shopping malls and restaurants at 7:00 pm or 8:00 pm and chief minister directed that concerned committees should review it and submit their conclusive recommendations at the earliest. He said the role of PDMA was very important in the present-day situation and asked its DG to review the situation by going to the field. “When the chief minister, health minister and others are conducting tours, what stops the PDMA from field visits. He directed the DG PDMA to submit reports of districts’ tours to CM Office on daily basis. He emphasized that people cannot be left alone in difficult circumstances. The chief minister said that self-isolation in homes will produce positive results and added that people should be educated about it. He also directed for early completion of the process of conducting tests of pilgrims coming from Iran and added that implementation on precautionary steps be ensured in the light of WHO instructions. The government, he said, was aware of financial problems of daily-wage employees and a committee has been constituted which will submit its recommendations at the earliest.

The meeting also considered a proposal to stop marriage ceremonies at homes. The meeting was told that number of employees had been sufficiently decreased in government offices. The chief minister directed that purchase process of safety dress and other material for doctors and paramedical staff be completed at the earliest and health department should submit a report to the cabinet committee every day.