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Coronavirus outbreak: PM Imran Khan tells nation no need for panic

Top Story

March 15, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan said Saturday he was personally overseeing the measures to deal with COVID-19 (coronavirus) and the government was alert to the dangers, having put in place sufficient protocols for people’s safety.

A day after he presided over the first ever meeting of the National Security Committee (NCC) on the COVID-19 here with all the top civilian and military leadership in the huddle, he held out assurances to the nation through tweets on Saturday. “We are alert to the dangers & have put in place sufficient protocols for the safety and health of our people. The WHO has commended our efforts as being amongst the best in the world,” he said.

The prime minister wrote, “I want to inform the nation I am personally overseeing measures to deal with COVID-19 & will address the nation soon. I would advise people to follow safety instructions issued by our govt. While there is a need for caution there is no need for panic,” he emphasised in his tweet.

Meanwhile, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza on Saturday said Pakistan is conducting diagnostic tests for the novel coronavirus free of cost.

"Throughout the country, diagnostic tests of the coronavirus are being carried out free," he said, pointing out that eight government laboratories had been provided coronavirus kits.

Dr Mirza said that the kits were provided to the labs free of cost and no fees were charged for conducting coronavirus tests. "Pakistan is one of the few countries in the world that can produce its coronavirus kits," he said.

The prime minister's special assistant said that 25 hospitals across the country had been designated to treat patients suffering from the virus.

Meanwhile, the National Coordination Committee (NCC) on coronavirus Friday met at the Ministry of Health here and reviewed the status of decisions taken by the National Security Committee (NSC) a day earlier in a bid to ensure fast-track implementation. “A coordinated national response to safeguard the health of the people of Pakistan is underway, with the federal and provincial governments and all relevant agencies working in unison to meet the challenge,” the PM’s Special Assistant on Health Dr Zafar Mirza is reported to have stated as chair of NCC.

The meeting was told that the provinces have already enforced major decisions including closure of educational institutions including ‘madaris’ for three weeks; proper screening of incoming travelers at Kartarpur; and closure of the country’s western borders for two weeks.

“We are strictly following international best practices in all aspects of our response, be it in screening of travelers at Points of Entry, laboratory tests of suspected cases, establishing quarantine facilities, isolation wards, ensuring hospital care, preventing cross border spread, and strengthening surveillance,” said Dr Zafar.

Dr Zafar underlined the need not to panic and to fight this challenge as one nation by protecting ourselves through simple precautionary measures. While the government officially confirmed 29 cases as of Saturday, unofficial sources placed the number at 31.

Dr Zafar said the Ministry of Information, ISPR and the Ministry of Health will work jointly to keep the public informed on coronavirus. Public is being given guidance and provided necessary assistance through helpline 1166. All points of entries to the country are being further strengthened with enhanced health screening facilities and equipment, the meeting was told.

The role of the media is of critical importance to ensure that only authentic and accurate information is provided to the people so panic can be avoided and risk averted he added.

Meanwhile, the Municipal Corporation of Islamabad (MCI) in a late evening session has announced to close all the public parks and picnic spots in the federal capital as a precautionary measure against coronavirus.

The MCI spokesman on Saturday said that as per directives of the Islamabad mayor, the Pir Sohawa spot, Daman-e-Koh view point, Lake View Park, Islamabad Marghzar Zoo and public places have been closed down.

He said there would also not any weekly bazaar in Islamabad from Tuesday. The Sunday weekly bazaar would be held as per schedule because stall holders had already started preparations to establish stalls.

On the other hand, a few hours after another coronavirus case emerged in the city on Saturday, the Commissioner Karachi imposed a ban on functions/ gatherings/events at marriage halls, cinemas, public parks and other places till April 5, 2020.

In a notification issued by the Commissioner Karachi, it was stated that a "complete ban on holding of public gatherings such as weddings, processions, Jalsas, Majalis, Urs, anniversaries, ljtimas, sports events, etc."

The notification further stated that all events and functions at marriage halls / lawns, cinema halls, marquees, banquets, picnic spots, water parks, public parks, sea-sides, play lands, gyms, social clubs are prohibited.

The precautionary measure has been taken in light of the outbreak of the pandemic in Pakistan and other parts of the world.

Meanwhile, the Sindh government on Saturday announced to close the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan for three weeks. The Auqaf chief administrator said the shrine has been closed as a precaution to curb the virus outbreak.

While the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) government Saturday decided to impose section 144 as precautionary measure to help stop the spread of coronavirus in the state.

The decision to this effect was taken at a high-level meeting of State Coordination Committee, which was presided over by Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider Khan here. Briefing the meeting, Chief Secretary Mathar Niaz Rana said that there were six suspected cases of coronavirus, of which, four were declared clear while two were in quarantine.

Addressing on the occasion, Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider directed the concerned authorities to keep close liaison with all the relevant segments of the society, including Ulema to aware masses about the corona pandemic. He also directed to use local newspapers, polio teams, teachers and district administration to educate the public about the epidemic effectively.

Meanwhile, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah announces to use helicopter and jet to deal with corona virus.

Chief Minister Spokesperson said that 7 buses carrying pilgrims from Taftan border have arrived in Sukkar. In buses there are 270 ladies and gents and 19 children.

People coming from Sukkur have been sent to isolation rooms where they will be placed under quarantine for 14 days. Murad Ali Shah instructed to build one quarantine room in every district.