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KARACHI: The government has hinted at imposing a complete lockdown in the country if the current Covid-19 situation does not improve in a week.

Addressing newsmen in Karachi on Saturday, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry said the government will ponder over slapping a complete lockdown in the country if the coronavirus cases do not come down in a week. “Pakistanis have a window of one week to strictly follow the SOPs and help in bringing down the number of the deadly disease,” he added.

Responding to a question, Fawad Chaudhry welcomed PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz’s decision not to visit Karachi due to the worsening Covid-19 situation in the country. Chaudhry said the prime minister has always resisted the imposition of a complete lockdown but if the number of deaths from the virus keeps going up, the government will have to take “difficult decisions”.

“Daily wagers, the poor segment of society, and traders will suffer the most if a lockdown is imposed,” Fawad said.

The minister said that hospitals in major cities are under immense pressure. “In Lahore, 90 percent of ICU beds are full. Oxygen beds in Gujranwala and Multan have reached 88 percent and 85 percent capacity,” he added.

“Coronavirus positivity ratio in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is alarming. The infection rate in Mardan has reached 40 percent,” Fawad said.

As many as 560 ventilators in Pakistan are presently occupied. “It’s important that political parties cooperate with the government in curbing the spread of the virus,” he added. To help restaurants and businesses, the government is trying to work with food and other delivery companies so shopping can be done at home, he said and added “Covid-19 vaccination will take some time. It will at least take us a year to vaccinate the entire nation.”

He also requested the Election Commission of Pakistan to prepare election SOPs for providing guidelines to the political parties for their election campaigns. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was facing allegations that his recent election campaign was one of the main reasons behind recent surge in Covid-19 cases in India, he noted.

Chaudhary pointed out that ulema too could help enforce Covid-19 SOPs in congregations like Namaz-e-Taraveeh and Namaz-e-Eid, etc.

He said the professional journalists under a certain criteria would also be accommodated in the Prime Minister’s Housing Scheme through press clubs. He said journalists would also be awarded Health Cards facility through a special package to enable them avail healthcare facilities for themselves and their families. Chaudhary said they are also moving towards resolving the issues related to media advertisements, besides, the issue of payment of pending salaries of media workers would also be resolved. He observed that the bitterness in politics was not in the interest of the country.

To a question about the Health Card facility, he said the provinces and federal government share 50 percent cost, each in the facility, but the Sindh government has refused it. Regarding a question that the Supreme Court of Pakistan has handed over two hospitals of Karachi to the Federal Government due to the issues of corruption and maladministration, he said efforts are being made to make representatives of the Federal and Sindh governments as members of the Board to run the affairs of the hospitals in an efficient manner. To another question, Chaudhry said the chief minister of Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah was also part of NCOC and he was therefore also responsible for ensuring compliance with NCOC decisions.—Agencies


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