LAHORE: The Punjab cabinet on Thursday declared medical emergency across the province to ensure maximum measures to control the spread of coronavirus.
The cabinet discussed the pandemic beyond its formal agenda and resolved that there was an urgent need to take precautionary measures as 20 cases had already been reported in Pakistan – 16 in Sindh and four in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Meanwhile, explaining the decision, health minister Dr Yasmin Rashid said the cabinet discussed the measures, if cases began reporting in Punjab. She said the cabinet discussed the available facilities, equipment and talked about further procurement and recruitment.
“In the wake of coronavirus threat, the health department sought a blanket cover of all departments that was readily accepted,” she said and added that the home department would actively support the health department to screen travelers at five international airports in the province. She said the vigilance had already been increased at the airports and any suspect patient would be quarantined.
Yasmin says vigilance increased at airports, three hospitals specified for quarantine
Dr Rashid said the health department had identified three hospitals - one in Muzaffargarh and two in Lahore - with around 900 beds capacity.
Stressing the need for proper measures, she said Italy faced serious coronavirus threat because it did not take steps when the cases had started reporting.
The health minister said a technical committee was working in the department led by herself and the health secretary to present a map to the cabinet on Friday (today) that how the government would move forward towards closing different public locations, if cases began reporting in the province.
Dr Rashid stressed that the people should consider this coronavirus threat seriously and follow the instructions to get themselves protected from the disease. She stressed that people should avoid going to public places, unnecessary travel and ensure personal hygiene.
She said the chief secretary had also instructed the divisional commissioners and deputy commissioners to follow coronavirus emergency alert.
Chief Minister Usman Buzdar told the cabinet meeting that the health department would be provided with resources to purchase the required medical equipment. The meeting also decided to launch a public awareness campaign about coronavirus.
The health secretaries told the meeting that out of 71 suspected coronavirus patients, the tests of 66 patients were negative while the result of five other patients was awaited. Out of 20 confirmed patients, the health secretary said 14 belonged to Sindh and five to Gilgit-Baltistan and one from Balochistan.
Similarly, screening of 3,000 Chinese had been completed in Punjab and screening of around 4,000 pilgrims coming from Iran was also conducted. Along with it, quarantine facility had been set up for 800 patients in DG Khan and high dependency unit and isolation wards established in DHQ hospitals.
The meeting approved government-to-government arrangements with National Radio Communication Corporation for the supply of vehicles, retro-reflective number plates and further decided to create a separate tourism department by bifurcating it from youth affairs & sports department.
Approval of amendment to Stamp Act 1899 (Act II of 1899), Punjab Police (Special Branch) Intelligence Cadre Service Rules 2012 and schedule of Sub Inspectors and Inspectors (Appointment & Conditions of Service) Rules 2013 was given by the cabinet.
Amendment to rules for the supply of water to power plants by the irrigation department was also approved.
The meeting expressed a deep sense of sorrow over the crash of PAF plane in Islamabad and offered prayers for Wing Commander Noman Akram.
The meeting lauded Mr Buzdar for working day and night for the establishment of South Punjab secretariat.
The provincial ministers, advisers, special assistants, chief secretary and the secretaries concerned attended the meeting.
Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2020