'Schools to remain closed, mosques to stay open': Govt provides updates on strategy against Covid-19

Published March 26, 2020
Members of the federal government and the NDMA chief address a press conference on Thursday. — DawnNewsTV
Members of the federal government and the NDMA chief address a press conference on Thursday. — DawnNewsTV

Following a meeting of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) on Covid-19, members of the federal government — including Asad Umar, Zafar Mirza, Firdous Ashiq Awan and Noorul Haq Qadri — along with National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) chief shared updates on key decisions taken during today's huddle.

Key updates:

  • School closures extended till May 31
  • Mosques will remain open; congregations will be in limited numbers
  • 21 Covid-19 patients recovered in Pakistan
  • By April 10-15, imported ventilators will increase to 1,000, by April 25, this number will rise to 2,000 to 3,000
  • No shortage of PPE supplies for healthcare workers by April 5

School closures extended

Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar said that today was the fifth meeting of the NCC.

Among the decisions taken in today's meeting, Umar announced that the closures of educational institutions across the country would be extended till May 31. He said that Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood had said that this decision was taken in agreement with all provinces.

With regards to the transportation system, Umar said that during a meeting of the NCC that is set to take place tomorrow, difficulties faced by transporters will be discussed and reviewed.

Umar shared a team would work on data analytics so that decisions can be taken on the basis of "data [...] and the on-ground situation not on the basis of emotions".

Additionally, he said that another team is working daily on ensuring the implementation of an economic package announced earlier.

The federal minister assured that there is no shortage of atta, while responding to reports of a shortage in parts of the country. He said that in order to deal with immediate shortages, provinces with stocks were requested to speed up the pace of releases.

"You should be reassured, there is no shortage," he said.

Umar added that Prime Minister Imran Khan will announce two more "big initiatives" in the coming days, adding that the details of these programmes will be finalised in the next few days.

Umar said that representatives of all provinces as well as federal government officials will now work at the National Command Centre in NDMA in order to ensure that all people working on the coronavirus are in one place and can share data, exchange questions.

The federal minister added that Prime Minister Imran had told him to mention that some people were hoarding and taking advantage of the current situation.

He said that this is not just a crime in the country but in God's eyes as well. Umar urged citizens to report such incidents.

No shortage of PPE supplies for healthcare workers by April 5

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza provided updates with regards to the current Covid-19 cases in the country as well as decisions taken regarding personal protection equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers.

Mirza said that after looking at supplies, by April 5, the country would have enough PPE supplies so that doctors, nurses, paramedics handling coronavirus patients won't face a shortage.

He said that large supplies are in process and by April 5, the situation will improve.

Additionally, Mirza announced that an expert on infectious diseases Dr Faisal Sultan has been included in the government's team as the focal point for coronavirus with regards to the health aspect.

On the national level, a training programme for doctors, nurses and paramedics will also be launched.

The premier's special assistant said that there are four main steps regarding social distancing: don't go out unnecessarily, you should have a very important reason to go out, if you need to step out maintain a two metres distance, don't shake hands or hug people, and wash your hands with soap or use sanitiser.

Number of imported ventilators to increase

National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Chairman Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal provided updates on medical supplies in the country.

He said that currently the number of intensive care unit beds in Pakistan stands at 19,670.

Afzal said that total number of quarantine beds across the country is 162,000. He said that three-star and four-star hotel have been booked for the purpose and five-star hotels will be used as the fourth line of defence.

The NDMA chief said that there are 194,000 medical health practitioners in Pakistan, of whom 30,000 work in ICUs. He also shared that these ICU medical practitioners will be provided with a kit, including a gown, masks etc.

With regards to ventilators, the NDMA chief said that there were 61 ventilators that were not functioning. He added, however, that the Pakistan Defence Forces had an institution that has offered to repair these.

Afzal said that by April 10-15, imported ventilators will increase to 1,000. By April 25, this number will rise to 2,000 to 3,000. He said that by May, it may increase to between 8,000 and 10,000.

Mosques will remain open; limited numbers

Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Noorul Haq Qadri provided an update regarding offering prayers at mosques.

He said that the NCC had decided that mosques will not be closed. Qadri said that mosques will have azaan (call to prayers) and tilawat.

With regards to offering congregational prayers at mosques, Qadri said that this will be "limited".

He said that mosque imams, staff, regular attendees in limited numbers — those who are healthy and not older than 50 years of age — will be able to offer prayers in the mosque in limited numbers.



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