MUZAFFARABAD: Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider on Friday announced state’s highest official ‘Nishan-i-Kashmir’ award for Dr Usama Riaz of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) for carrying out his duty to fight Covid-19 at the cost of his life.

“Dr Usama Shaheed has set an immortal example of bravery and courage and he is the pride of not just his community and country but also of the whole humanity,” said the AJK premier at a meeting held to review the overall situation.

The meeting also paid rich tributes to the heroic services of medical workers.

“The doctors and paramedical staff are the frontline soldiers of our fight against novel coronavirus, and we are beholden to them in this regard,” the prime minister remarked.

He also announced a bonus equal to one-month’s basic pay for doctors and paramedical staff throughout AJK from grade 1 to 20 as a token recognition of their dauntless bravery.

He also vowed that the government would ensure their protection and equip them with personal protective gear.

At the same meeting, Mr Haider also directed all three divisional commissioners to take strict action against hoarders and profiteers through effective administrative measures to curb hoarding and profiteering across the state.

The administration must ensure uninterrupted supply of edibles and other basic amenities of life to people during the lockdown period, he said.

The meeting was informed by Chief Secretary Mathar Niaz Rana that Corona Testing Lab had become functional in Abbas Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS) Muzaffarabad while the Mirpur Laboratory was also being upgraded.

Mr Haider disclosed that National Disaster Management Authority had been approached for establishment of Corona Testing Lab in Rawalakot.

It was Mr Haider’s first meeting in Muzaffarabad after March 5 when he had left for Islamabad for the surgery of his eyes.

However, he kept on holding meetings in Kashmir House Islamabad, during which several important decisions, including complete lockdown of AJK, were taken, to contain the spread of pandemic in the territory.

“I was stuck in Islamabad due to [the] surgery of my both eyes but I kept on chairing meetings through video link, [even] against the advice of medics, to decide steps to contain spread of Covid-19 in AJK. Today I’m back in Muzaffarabad and will personally monitor implementation of measures. We’ve have to defeat this virus,” Mr Haider tweeted on Friday.

Meanwhile, seven new suspected cases had surfaced in AJK over the past 24 hours, according to Health Minister Dr Najeeb Naqi.

Three suspected cases were in Muzaffarabad and one each in Kotli, Mirpur, Bagh, Sudhnoti and Haveli. All suspects have been quarantined in their respective health facilities, he said.

Mr Naqi said the samples of three suspected cases would be screened in AIMS Muzaffarabad and remaining four at the National Institute of Health Islamabad.

“So far the total number of suspected cases has been 90. Of the 63 received results, only two have tested positive and the rest negative. The remaining 27 results are being awaited,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2020

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