Prime Minister Imran Khan has rejected a proposal by the Punjab government regarding imposing a complete lockdown in Lahore, reiterating it will disproportionately affect the poor.
PM Imran was addressing media in Lahore on Saturday, after chairing a meeting regarding the coronavirus measures taken in the province.
The government decided in the meeting against the imposition of a complete lockdown and agreed to ensure a strict implementation of the SOPs whereby masks will be mandatory for everyone and strict action will be taken if complaints of violations of safety protocols are received..
The premier said there was a prevailing impression that a complete lockdown is being imposed in Lahore and rejected any possibility of such a measure.
“Imposing a lockdown means shutting down the economy,” he said.
The prime minister said that a “smart lockdown” will be imposed instead, under which hotspots will be identified and closed off.
PM Imran said that the Corona Relief Tiger Force will recruit more volunteers and assist the government in ensuring the rules are being followed.
The premier said that a “smart lockdown” is the only option for the country, and that if Pakistan were a rich country then imposing a lockdown would have been an option.
“New York’s mayor, the city which wealthiest in the world, is saying that it is going bankrupt,” said the prime minister, adding that if such a disastrous situation is prevailing in the US city, “then what could happen in Pakistan?”
He regretted that people were not taking the outbreak seriously.
“I am sorry to say that people are just not following SOPs. They think that there is no such thing as coronavirus and they don’t know anyone who contracted the disease. People think nothing will happen to them,” he said.
The prime minster warned that if the SOPs are not followed, the country will undergo a very tough phase.
“If we are permitting you to resume activities then it is your responsibility to follow the guidelines,” he said.
Declaring facemasks mandatory for everyone, the premier warned that strict action against those flouting the rules will be taken.
The prime minister said that the government is expecting July to be a difficult month.
“I will also visit the other provinces. From now onward, I will be personally monitoring the situation and checking for compliance on the SOPs from the PM Office,” said the premier, adding that he will also take input from the Tiger Force regarding the situation on the ground.
Overview of Punjab’s situation
Presenting an overview of the situation in Punjab, provincial health minister Dr Yasmin Rashid said that about 40% capacity is available across the province.
About 10,000 beds are available which have been set aside for coronavirus patients, she said. She also said 502 high dependency bed units are available.
Around 3,055 people are currently under treatment for COVID-19, of which 215 are critical and 193 are on ventilators.
She said a total of 540 ventilators had been set aside for COVID-19 patients, so the remaining are still available.
“We should be okay for the next week or ten days if people exercise caution,” she said.
She said that the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) will arrange an extra 1,000 beds equipped with oxygen supply.
Speaking about ventilator availability in Lahore, says that a total of 197 ventilators were allotted for COVID-19 patients in public hospitals and 104 in private facilities.
Currently, 63 are available in public hospitals and 72 in private hospitals, she said.
The minister also spoke about the drug Actemra for which trials will be carried out. She said that earlier the drug could only be imported from Japan, but now the drug regulatory authority has allowed for it to be imported from the US as well.
She said the prime minister had approved an initial trial of 1,000 doses.
Rashid also warned against the black market sale of the drug — mentioning that reports of such sales had been received — and cautioned against self-prescribing it as may prove lethal for patients, especially who have septicaemia or tuberclosis.
She said that the government will take action against those hoarding the drug to sell it at higher rates.