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November 17, 2020

Public gatherings, rallies banned

Top Story

November 17, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan Monday urged the nation to strictly follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs) and wear facemasks in public, as the number of coronavirus cases in Pakistan had quadrupled in the last 14 days.

Briefing the media here on pandemic and deliberations of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) meeting on COVID-19, he said a decision on whether or not to close the educational institutions would be taken next week.

The forum took stock of the situation arising out of the spread of the virus. The prime minister said the SOPs in mosques, factories and shops would have to be implemented.

He cautioned that if care was not exercised, hospitals would fill with patients. He noted that the virus was more dangerous than ever and “if we are careful now, we can stop it”.

“The experience of the whole world is that use of masks reduces the rate of spread of the epidemic, so we have to reduce its speed. The time has come for everyone to take precautions and, at the same time, we have to save our economy,” he emphasised.

He pointed out that India had not yet emerged from the economic crisis due to the lockdown, therefore, “we should not close factories and shops at all but should abide by the SOPs. The Tiger Force will tell the government about those who are not following the SOPs,” he said.

Imran said while there were six to seven deaths taking place in one day, now they had increased to 25. He feared if the SOPs were not followed, the consequences could be dire. He said if due care was taken, the spread of the pandemic could be stopped and urged people to wear facemasks while going out.

He said they were not stopping business activities but the SOPs should be implemented everywhere so that such a situation, which came a few months ago in which the government had to resort to lockdown, did not arise.

He urged the Tiger Force to continue providing information on non-implementation of the SOPs. “We have canceled this week’s rally and will urge other political parties to refrain from holding rallies aswell,” he maintained while referring to Gilgit-Baltistan officials who said there had been a sharp rise in corona cases since the start of the election campaign there.

The prime Minister emphasised that wedding ceremonies should be held in open spaces, but not more than 300 people should attend a ceremony and it would be necessary for all participants to wear masks.

He made it clear that they were analyzing whether the number of cases in schools was increasing at an alarming rate and explained that if the number of cases increases, the government would reduce the summer vacation by increasing the number of winter vacation.

He said it was due to the blessings of Allah that the death rate due to the coronavirus in the country remained low and believed that God willing the situation would not worsen.

“We managed to save our economy during the coronavirus pandemic. Other sectors including service, tourism and restaurants suffered a lot but still suffered less than in other countries,” he said.

Earlier, the prime minister chaired a meeting to review the Prime Minister’s COVID Relief Fund utilization, which has set a precedent of transparent expenditure trail of Rs4.8 billion.

The fund was established in March 2020 to raise funds for COVID-19 victims, says a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office.

The fund received generous donations from within Pakistan and overseas. An amount of Rs4.8 billion was accumulated in the fund of which Rs1.08 billion was donated by international donors and Rs3.8 billion were contributed domestically.

There had been little transparency in the use of donor funds in the past. However, the PM COVID Relief Fund has set a precedent in terms of transparency and track-ability of donated funds.

“Pakistanis are the most giving nation. Their generosity is legendary. I want to give them the confidence that we are fully transparent with the use of all donor funds we receive,” said the prime minister.

The Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division is the administrator of the fund. To ensure robust governance and oversight of the fund, the prime minister established a policy committee to oversee appropriate usage of the proceeds including means of identification of beneficiaries and parameters of their selection.

The policy committee is also meant to decide about the means of disbursement and take any appropriate decisions for collection of donations, maintenance and administration of the fund and related matters.