LAHORE: Expressing concern over allowing the inbound stranded overseas Pakistani passengers go home from airports, the Punjab Cabinet Committee to Combat Coronavirus Threat has decided to take up the matter with the federal government for quarantining the coronavirus-positive passengers on arrival.
Currently, three to four planes are bringing stranded Pakistanis and landing at different airports in the province and reports suggest that around 20 to 25pc stranded Pakistanis are being tested positive for the coronavirus.
The committee decided to go for fines varying from Rs500 to Rs5,000 on violators of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) only after an awareness campaign.
Cabinet body told up to 25pc passengers are Covid patients
The committee meeting, chaired by Senior Minister Abdul Aleem Khan at Chief Minister’s Secretariat on Thursday, was told that the federal government had issued directions to let the inbound passengers at Punjab airports go home without stopping them.
“This direction is playing havoc with the efforts to check the spread of coronavirus as the Covid-19 patients immediately infect their children and family members,” a source in the meeting told Dawn.
The source said the meeting was reported that most of the coronavirus cases were coming from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Explaining that India had completely closed flights to bring its stranded citizens back, though they were in much higher number than stranded Pakistanis, the committee was of the opinion that a way-out strategy must be planned so that the stranded Pakistanis should not propel the coronavirus spread in Punjab.
“This serious matter of quarantine of inbound Covid-19-positive Pakistanis will immediately be taken up with the federal government for discussion in the next National Command and Control Centre (NCOC) meeting,” the meeting decided, according to the source.
In order to check the local multiplication of the coronavirus due to non-observance of the SOPs by the general public as well as traders and shopkeepers, the committee entered into a heated debate and unanimously resolved to go for zero tolerance towards the violators. The committee discussed that the strategy of closing of few shops in a market was not yielding any results as the traders’ bodies and associations would confront the government to open the sealed shops.
“The government decided that on the charge of non-observance of SOPs, the complete market will be sealed,” a source said and added that the government was continuously asking the traders community to ensure observance of the SOPs as it was in the interest of their own businesses. However, complete disregard of the SOPs, including wearing of masks, sanitisation of hands and physical distance, was being observed by the civil administration.
With regard to the issues taken up with the transport owners, the cabinet committee was informed that the transport owners were asked to lower fares by 20pc while they were given relief in petrol prices by up to 35pc to ensure that they would observe physical distancing by utilising only 50pc seats in the public transport. However, the source said, the meeting was told that there were again blatant violations of the SOPs as well as charge of fares from the commuters.
The committee decided that fines should not immediately be imposed and directed that the policemen and traffic wardens should stop all those commuters not wearing masks and ask them to cover their mouth and nose with at least a handkerchief and women with their dupatta.
“This warning campaign will continue for a couple of days and then the government will go for imposing fines under the punishments explained by the Corona Ordinance,” an official toldDawn.
The corona ordinance punishments explain Rs500 fine for not wearing masks in public places; Rs500 for spitting in public places; Rs2,000 for violating home quarantine SOPs; and Rs2,000 for violating physical distancing by shopkeepers and commercial centres. For violation of physical distancing in public transport would entail Rs1,000 fine in buses, Rs5,000 in vans, Rs2,000 in cars and Rs500 in rickshaws.
The cabinet committee was briefed that there were 2,744 ventilators in the government and private hospitals across the province and 221 Covid-19 patients were on ventilators while 533 patients of other diseases were on ventilators, leaving 2,000 ventilators unoccupied to date.
Similarly, the committee was told that 9,276 beds had been dedicated for Covid patients and 2,765 beds of them were currently occupied while 6,511 beds were still available. It was stated that the Punjab government had so far conducted 259,254 tests, including 4,421 during the past 24 hours.
Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2020