LAHORE: Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, Lahore Corps Commander Lt-Gen Majid Ehsan and other senior civil and military officers decided to go for a line of action different from the federal government to check the spread of coronavirus in the provincial metropolis.

The government plans to keep the industries, businesses and markets shut in Lahore for three days instead of the federal government’s decision of two days. It resolves the implementation of the Punjab Infectious Diseases Prevention and Control Ordinance 2020 in letter and spirit while registering cases against the violators of the standard operating procedure (SOP).The Punjab government has constituted a committee, headed by additional chief secretary (home), to formulate recommendations for submission before the federal government.

The Punjab government had suggested to the federal government to ease the lockdown about a week back and after Prime Minister Imran Khan announced going for easing the lockdown in phases on Thursday, the Punjab government decided to go for a different line of action on Friday.

However, after the National Coordination Committee meeting also attended by chief ministers of the four provinces, the sources say, the federal government has already allowed the provinces to take independent decisions to deal with the ground realities in respective districts of a province.

A high-profile meeting at chief minister’s secretariat on Friday took a detailed review of anti-coronavirus steps and future roadmap of phase-wise easing of lockdown. The meeting spotted Lahore followed by Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Sialkot and Faisalabad as hotspots of the coronavirus and planned to devise a separate policy to overcome the crisis.

Decides to keep industries, markets shut for three days instead of two announced by Centre

Comparing Lahore with the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus, the meeting was told that the trend of new coronavirus cases was that of Wuhan that had organised settlements of 8.5m population. On the other hand, Lahore has 11m population, including a large number of slums and ghettoes – a potential threat for the spread of the virus.Realising that the people would come out of their homes unmindfully as soon as the markets will open particularly for the Eidul Fitr shopping, the meeting decided that anti-coronavirus ordinance would be implemented strictly and those found violating the business-related SOP would dealt be with an iron hand. The meeting realised that now there was no room for any mistake.

Lahore Corps Commander Lt-Gen Majid Ehsan expressed commitment of continuing all-out assistance to the Punjab government and added that army was standing by the people in these hard times.

“Implementation on a separate line of action is necessary keeping in view the prevailing situation of Lahore city,” Gen Ehsan told the meeting.

The chief minister said the decision of phase-wise easing of the lockdown had been made with collective consultation and permission of opening small markets and shops would be allowed after their zoning.

The meeting was told that over 117,000 coronavirus lab tests had so far been conducted as province testing capability had reached some 6,000 tests daily. Smart sampling has already started across the province.

Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2020