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Wednesday December 08, 2021

Uncertainty hounds NA, Senate sessions

May 11, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Deputy Chairman Senate Saleem Mandviwalla Sunday suggested that the sessions of both Houses of Parliament should be postponed after two parliamentarians were found infected with coronavirus.

The National Assembly session is set to begin on Monday (today), while the Senate will meet on Tuesday.

“The virus has reached the parliamentary galleries,” said Mandviwalla expressing concern over reports of parliamentarians and assembly staff contracting coronavirus.

“More lawmakers and staff are likely to be affected by the virus,” he said and warned that summoning the National Assembly and the Senate sessions at this time could have serious consequences, says media reports. He said the proceedings [of both the houses of Parliament] should be delayed, and steps should be taken so that no one enters the premises untested.

Syed Mehboob Shah and PTI MNA from Bajaur Gul Zafar Khan tested positive.

A special team of the National Institute of Health took swabs of the affected lawmakers and others on May 8.

All members of the both the Houses of Parliament have already been directed to go for tests before attending the scheduled sessions.

Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan, Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam, Senators Raja Zafarul Haq, Mushahid Hussain Syed, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, Saleem Zia, Abdul Qayyum and others have tested negative.

Meanwhile, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser is fast recovering from the coronavirus, his spokesperson said on Sunday adding that he was likely to be discharged from the hospital on Monday (today).

He is not running fever anymore and has only a slight chest infection, said the spokesperson, adding that the speaker’s cough was better than before.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa Sunday telephoned National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser to inquire about him.

In a phone call with the premier, Qaiser said he was feeling better after following doctors’ instructions and expressed optimism that he would get well soon. Imran wished him well and prayed for his swift recovery.

Separately, the army chief held a telephonic conversation with Asad Qaiser and inquired about him. Bajwa expressed good wishes for the NA speaker’s health and prayed for his early recovery.

Meanwhile, the Sindh government Sunday allowed all the community markets in the province to resume business activities from Monday (today) after successful negotiations between the traders' alliance and Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah.

According to a notification issued by the home department, community markets, retail outlets, stand-alone/neighbourhood shops located in residential areas shall be allowed to operate from 8am to 4pm, Monday to Thursday.

Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are declared "safe days" with 100% lockdown for all but essential services.

Earlier in the day, traders’ leader Hammad Poonawala said shopping centres and malls would continue to remain closed while markets across the province will operate from 6am until 5pm.

“Shops will open tomorrow from 06:00am to 05:00pm,” a Sindh government spokesperson said, adding that shops will start closing from 4pm.

The spokesperson further said there was a consensus on the SOPs between the traders and the provincial government.

Sindh Chief Minister in a video message said priority for the government was the health and safety of the public.

“We keep talking to the federal government now and then. We had reservations about the opening of airports and public transport,” Shah said.

“The federal government wanted to open businesses at night, which we rejected.”

“The federal government accepted out recommendations”, the chief minister said, adding that it was on us to keep the businesses closed.

“This decision was taken by all the four provinces,” he added.

The chief minister further said they were trying to get loans for small businesses and an ordinance in this regard was sent.

“The governor has sent the ordinance back which we will resend after making changes.”

The Sindh government, earlier in the week, had rejected reports of the lockdown being lifted in the province from Monday.

A tweet from CM House's Twitter handle said: "[CM] Murad has categorically said that Sindh was not ending the lockdown on Monday and we are entering the second phase of lockdown with some extra restrictions, particularly at hotspots.”

The post mentioned that the statement was issued as some media channels were "giving the impression that the lockdown was ending on Monday, which was totally wrong."

However, he said, "minor exemptions will be given to some sectors such as construction phase-2, and isolated shops in neighbourhoods would be allowed to operate under SOPs issued by the government," he said.

He categorically mentioned, "Air, train, and public transport would continue to remain closed".

“Our lockdown is linked to our data,” CM Shah said, adding that Sindh’s provincial health capacity was currently at 20%.

“We will consistently adjust our protective measures according to our capacity,” CM Shah said.

The provincial government had already given a conditional permission to start online businesses from Monday to Thursday between 9am to 3pm.

Businesses, foremost are required to pledge they will "undertake to conduct business fully on-line/on phone", said a five-page notification released by the home department.

They must then "give such undertaking before opening their business and shall be applicable to all persons engaged in such business including Owners, Proprietor, as well as their staff/workers, delivery persons etc".

In a related development, Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar has granted permission for home isolation.

The Primary & Secondary Healthcare Department has formally issued a notification on the recommendations of Corona Expert Advisory Group and Technical Working Group.

Usman Buzdar, while granting permission for home isolation, said that the SOPs [standard operating procedures], outlined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) had been taken into consideration for home isolation and patients carrying only minor symptoms could be kept at home isolation.

The patient would be kept in equipped building under the supervision of the district health authority concerned with essential facilities, he added. The CM said that the patient could be kept in equipped buildings with necessary facilities of hotels, school buildings, mosques, hostels, and community centres. He said that the building in which the patient would be kept in home isolation would be disinfected on daily basis and solid wastes would be disposed of according to the given guidelines.

Usman Buzdar said that home isolation would not be allowed where there was danger of virus spread due to cooling and heating systems and isolated patients would be provided food in only disposable packs.

The CM said that a committee, nominated by deputy commissioner concerned, would decide about home isolation and the assistant commissioner or his representative, deputy district officer (DDO) health, chief officer would also be included in home isolation committee. He said that staff members of Population Welfare, Livestock, Excise & Taxation Departments would conduct monitoring and reporting of home isolation. He said that three committees would be constituted in every urban union council and a doctor would be included in every committee. One committee would be constituted in every rural union council and presence of a doctor would be mandatory in the committee.

The committee would also review scope of keeping more than one patient according to the total number of family members, he added. He said that the family concerned would be informed about the SOPs and procedure before granting permission for home isolation. He added that patients kept in home isolation would be bound to inform about their condition on daily basis.

Usman Buzdar said that it would be mandatory for every home isolated patient to ensure implementation of the Primary & Secondary Healthcare Department directions and restriction of testing protocol would be compulsory for the patient being kept in home isolation.

The CM emphasized that the duration of home isolation would be 10 days and two negative corona tests of the patient would be necessary in order to end the home isolation. In case of surfacing second corona test positive, new test would be conducted after five days on ending home isolation.

In case of unavailability of corona test, the patient would have to remain in isolation for two more weeks despite carrying no symptoms.

He also issued directions to the Primary & Secondary Healthcare Department to undertake necessary steps for ensuring implementation of the SOPs with regard to home isolation.