ISLAMABAD - Federal Minister for Planning Asad Umar has urged the provincial governments to issue notification to private offices to avoid taking any punitive action against employees not attending offices due to living in areas with smart lockdown.

He was chairing a meeting of National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) here on Saturday. He said efforts and measures taken to contain the pandemic outbreak would show results after 15 days and the provincial governments should ensure strict compliance of the measures adopted.

The meeting reviewed the update of targeted smart lockdowns implemented across the country, decisions and action points of NCC, oxygen and cylinders’ import and disease projections. The forum was informed by the provincial Chief Secretaries on compliance of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and smart lockdown update across the country.

Meanwhile, 6,604 new coronavirus cases have surfaced in the country over the last twenty four hours, taking the total tally to 171,666, according to the NCOC. These include 64,216 in Punjab, 65,163 in Sindh, 20,790 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 9,162 in Balochistan, 10,279 in Islamabad, 1,253 in Gilgit-Baltistan and 803 in Azad Kashmir.

The death toll from the virus stands at 3,382 with 153 deaths reported over the last twenty-four hours. 31,681 Corona tests were carried out during this period while 63,504 patients have so far recovered from the disease, according to the NCOC.

The forum also reviewed imposition of smart lockdown in the coronavirus hotspot areas

and compliance of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) by the people across the country. Asad Umar said all the efforts and measures taken to contain the COVID-19 pandemic would show results after 15 days whereas the provincial governments should ensure implementation of smart lockdown with strict compliance of the SOPs by the people, he added.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Secretary said the population of around 500,000 had been restricted under the smart lockdowns implemented in various localities across the province, with main focus on urban areas of Peshawar, Malakand, Swat, Haripur, Nowshera and Mardan. There was no high risk of spread of the coronavirus in other seven districts, including Kohistan and Upper Chitral, he added.

The Punjab Chief Secretary informed the meeting that eight main cities were under the lockdown, with less than one million population restricted. He said over 80 percent compliance of wearing masks at public places was witnessed, however, the administration was trying strict enforcement of all the SOPs. Some 12,000 transport owners were fined for violating the SOPs and health guidelines, he added.

The Sindh Chief Secretary told the NCOC that almost 24 districts with a population of 5 million were put the smart lockdown.  The Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Chief Secretary said a total of 59 smart lockdowns were imposed in the valley, where the public compliance of the SOPs had improved. The district administrations were providing free masks to the people if found without wearing the same.

The Gilgit Baltistan Chief Secretary informed the forum that the deputy commissioners had been authorized to impose lockdown in the areas with high number coronavirus positive cases. The general public was complying with the SOPs, he added. The NCOC meeting also reviewed implementation of the National Coordination Committee’s  decisions, availability of oxygen cylinders, and need assessment of critical medical equipment and their import keeping in view the disease projections.