LAHORE: Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has approved new timing/schedule for the grocery and general stores in the province in a bid to check coronavirus spread.

According to the schedule, general stores and groceries will remain open from 9am to 5pm. Medical stores and pharmacies will be exempt from it. The new timing will be enforced from April 1 (today).

The decision has been taken in the interest of the people.

RELEASED: Releasing all those arrested for violating Section 144 in the province as “a good will gesture”, Usman Buzdar put renewed stress on social distancing and asked people to stay home.

Addressing a press conference, he claimed that the provincial government was doing all it could to strengthen law and order and enforce section 144.

CM orders release of Section 144 violators

“Rs250 million have been given to the department, 10,000 recruitments allowed and demand for 500 vehicles is accepted.”

The chief minister said his entire set-up was now concentrating on increasing [coronavirus infection] testing capacity in the province.

“We are trying hard and spending all possible resources with twin aim: achieve self-sufficiency in testing kits and raise testing capacity,” he claimed.

Health Minister Dr Yasmeen Rashid, who was flanking the CM, chimed in with details of preparations.

“Currently, all laboratories in the province can test up to 1,200 [Covid-19] suspects. By the end of this week, it would rise to 2,000. Within next two to three weeks, the capacity would rise to 5,000 to 7,000 per day.”

She said there were unverified claims by the doctors that the virus mutated a bit and in Pakistan it was not the same as it was in China. These claims are also under test and the government would get reports by Wednesday (today) evening.

Continuing with his press conference, the chief minister said the Punjab Isaaf Imdad Programme has started today (Tuesday). The applicants will apply online/SMS and Rs4,000 will be paid to the needy family after verification and Rs10 billion have been earmarked for providing a grant to 2.5 million families under the programme.

He said the local government department would conduct antiseptic spray in seminaries and mosques. However, people should avoid going outside unnecessarily.

The chief minister said “the situation is under control in Punjab” while the government would provide resources to medical researchers for the preparation of coronavirus vaccine and the standard operating procedure for home-based quarantine would also be issued after consultation with the doctors coming from China.

The 100-bed field hospital at Expo Centre would be made functional on Wednesday, he added.

He said: “The campaign is under way to deal with hoarders. An emergency plan has been devised to deal with any untoward situation and supply of essentials will not be affected.”

He said the Punjab government initially contacted Dr Tahir Shamsi for consultations about the treatment of coronavirus.

“Experts are researching at the University of Health Sciences and Pakistan will surely succeed in preparing vaccine.”

Earlier, provincial ministers Raja Basharat, Dr Yasmeen Rashid, Mian Aslam Iqbal, Fayyazul Hassan Chohan, the chief secretary, IG Police and relevant secretaries attended the meeting of cabinet committee on coronavirus.

Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2020