KARACHI/Lahore/QUETTA - Following the Sindh province, the Punjab and Balochistan governments have also sought Pakistan Army’s help to fight the spread of novel coronavirus in the country.

Both the provincial governments of Balochistan and Punjab requested the federal government to send military troops in order to assist civil administration amid spread of the coronavirus.

Reportedly, the Punjab government on Sunday wrote a letter to the federal government seeking deployment of military troops in the province under Article 245. The letter was sent to the federal government by the provincial Home Secretary.

The provincial government called for immediate deployment of armed forces to assist local administration.

Also, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar discussed the issue of military’s help with the chief secretary and other concerned officials of the government. An official said that after proper consultations the provincial government sent the request to the federal government. CM Usman Buzdar said the army was being summoned under Article 245.  He said that the government and the people were facing the challenge this pandemic in an emergency like situation.

Meanwhile, the Balochistan government also wrote a letter to the Ministry of Interior, asking for the Pakistan Army’s support to contain spread of the deadly virus.

In Sindh, the government ordered a complete lockdown from Sunday midnight for 15 days as part of precautionary measures to contain the spread of the virus.

The Sindh province so far reported 333 cases of coronavirus and death of a patient while four people were sent home after they recovered from the infection.

On Sunday, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah decided to impose complete lockdown for next two weeks after taking all political leaders and other stakeholders into confidence over the matter.

“I have no option but to save the people of Sindh from this endemic,” the CM said. While announcing the decision in a video-message, the chief minister said that he was announcing lockdown after discussing the matter with all political parties and religious scholars.

“The local transmission of the virus is spreading and we have to contain it, otherwise everything will go out of control,” he warned. He said that from Sunday midnight onward all offices, public places, transport and bus stands would remain closed for the next 15 days.

 

“Nobody will be allowed to come out of his home unnecessarily, for which, I have given clear instructions to the law enforcement agencies and the administration,” he said. Shah categorically said that patients could be transported to hospital. However, only three persons would be allowed to travel in the vehicle including the patient. The citizens will have to carry their CNICs during the travel, he added.

 

He also said that during the relaxation time of the lock down, to be announced by the government, only one person would be allowed to go to market/shop. In case of using vehicle, only two persons would be allowed, the driver and the person going for shopping.

 

Shah said that the people involved in hoarding and artificial price hike would be taken to task. “We have arranged special teams to check the artificial price and hoarding issue,” he said and added the supply chain of food, including vegetables, meat and others goods will be ensured.

Exemptions: 

Meanwhile, a notification issued from home department, listed the people who would remain exempted during the lockdown and they included personnel related to health services, law enforcing agencies, other essential services and offices, person in need of medical care and person going to buy grocery and medicines.

 

Meanwhile, necessary and unavoidable religious event including Namaz-e-Janaza and burial would be allowed. However, such events will take place keeping in view the strict social distancing limits.

 

Media persons, cellular companies’ essential staff, essential municipal services, PTA, PTCL, NTC staff, banks with limited staff, petrol pumps, welfare organisations, food related industry, manufacturers and dairy shops, fish, fruit vendors will also be allowed to travel during the lockdown period.

CM takes parties into confidence

Before announcing the lockdown decision, the chief minister took leadership of various political parties into confidence. He briefed them about the prevailing situation and the decisions taken to overcome it.

The political leaders who attended the chief ministers meeting, include Zubair Ahmed of PML-N, Firdous Shahmim Naqvi and Haleem Adil of PTI,  Amir Khan and Kishwar Zehra of MQM, Mohammad Younis Soomro of TLP, Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rehman of Jamaat-e-Islami, Nand Kumar and Shaharyar Maher of  GDA, Aslam Ghori of JUI(F) and  others.

Utilities: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah also directed all the authorities to suspend utility bills for lowest consumers for this month and start recoveries of this month in easy installments during the last months of the year. 

 

He directed K-Electric, Hesco and Sepco to suspend recovery of powers bills of those consumers whose bills would be upto Rs 4,000 for this month and then start recoveries in 10 monthly easy installments. Similarly, he said the SSGC authorities would follow the suit and their thresh hold of gas bill has been kept at Rs2000. He also directed power distribution companies, phone and mobile companies, water supply and sanitation institutions to continue their services uninterrupted and there would be no disconnection of any connection.

 

The chief minister also directed the landlords not to collect rent of their properties from their tenants for this month and then collect the same in easy installments. He also urged the employers to pay full salaries to their daily wagers so that they could meet their square meal at this difficult situation.

Shah said that the wings of political parties, religious parties and philanthropists would keep supporting poor people by giving them ration. “The Sindh government will also ensure provision of ration or cash to the poor people and daily wagers,” said.

 

Further, control rooms are being established at the offices of Director-General Rangers Sindh and Inspector-General of Police.

 

Meanwhile, a complete shutdown of markets, shopping malls and restaurants was observed in Punjab on the first day of two-day partial lockdown announced by the government the other day. All medical and grocery stores, however, remained open to facilitate the people. 

Also, Punjab government on Sunday decided to call Pakistan army in aid of civil administration after 70 new cases of the deadly virus were reported in a single day taking the provincial tally to 222.

Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar told a news conference here that government has decided to call Pak Army for the assistance of civil administration. “Pak Army has always helped the nation in the times of trial and now we are calling it for the help in dealing with Coronavirus”, he said, adding that army has been called in the province under article 245 of the constitution.

He said Rescue 1122, local government and other departments were jointly working to disinfect the cities and towns 

Buzdar also appealed the people to stay at homes and refrain from socializing. He said that people should cooperate with the government. The Chief Minister stressed that social distance was utmost necessary for the prevention of coronavirus. Usman Buzdar said that the Punjab government’s political and administrative team was in the field to deal with any situation arising out of the Corona outbreak. He further maintained that provincial ministers, along with the administration, were taking steps to prevent further spread of the virus in 36 districts.

 Meanwhile, Chief Minister visited the under-construction field hospital in Expo Centre Lahore on Sunday. Usman Buzdar also inspected the work being carried out for setting up of field hospital at the expo centre and directed to complete the work at the earliest. Usman Buzdar also met doctors and nurses performing duties at the field hospital in special security suits. The Chief Minister while talking to the doctors and nurses said that they were the torch bearer contingent of government’s campaign against coronavirus and government appreciated their spirit. He also met with the labors working on the site and said that they were doing a good job of tackling an exigency. The nation respects your dedication, he added.

  Usman Buzdar said that the number of coronavirus patients in Punjab was currently 163 and all these patients are under-treatment in the hospitals, where they are being taken care in every way.

The provincial health department confirmed later in the evening that that the total number of corona patients in Punjab had reached 222.

Buzdar said that the government had set up high dependency units in each district and five special hospitals were also being established. Apart from this, he added, more field hospitals will be established. He said Punjab government had done the mapping of hostels across the province and these hostels could also be utilized if necessary. He claimed said that the government could provide treatment facilities to one lac patients if needed. He said that the Punjab government had decided that the salaries of the daily wagers will continue to be paid while a committee has been constituted under the supervision of the finance minister for safeguarding the financial rights of daily wage employees in the private sector. This committee will submit its recommendations in the cabinet committee meeting to be held on 24th March, he said.  He said that the Punjab government was in touch with the federal government and data was being shared with NDMA on a daily basis. He said Punjab government had received diagnostic kits while ventilators would also be supplied soon.  He said Punjab government had decided to give funds of one billion rupees to the Baluchistan government as the Baluchistan government needs resources to take care at Taftan border. The Punjab government will cooperate with its brother provinces in the future. He said that majority of the Corona-patients were those who were devotees or had travel history. The Chief Minister said that the government was in the process of recruiting 8 to 10 thousand new doctors and paramedical staff on an emergency basis and cabinet will give approval of this initiative in next meeting. “One thousand-bed field hospital at Expo centre Lahore will be made functional in 10 days. The first phase of the 300-bed of field hospital will be completed within the next 48 hours. The field hospital will also have a three-time meal arrangement. Patients will be kept in isolation at this field hospital”, he said.

Also, Chief Minister Punjab Sardar Usman Buzdar Sunday visited different areas of the provincial metropolis. Usman Buzdar inspected the lockdown of markets, shopping malls and restaurants. Chief Minister visited Johar Town, Jinnah Hospital, Garden Town Gulberg and Jail Road and inspected the implementation of government initiatives with regard to the closer of markets.

Chief Minister directed the authorities to ensure 100 percent implementation of the government measures regarding closure markets, shopping malls and restaurants. He said that no one will be allowed to violate government orders. Usman Buzdar said that he is personally monitoring the ongoing campaign for the prevention of coronavirus. He said that the decision of shutting down markets, shopping malls and restaurants have been taken in the large interest of the masses and protect their lives. He appealed that people should avoid going out from their houses unnecessarily and maintain social distance.