QUETTA: Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar has warned that if people do not strictly follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs) aimed at stopping the spread of Covid-19 during the Eidul Azha holidays and Muharram, the country could witness a surge in infections.

Speaking at a special meeting of the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) held in Quetta on Thursday, he stressed the need for national unity and religious harmony in the country in order to meet challenges it was facing in the wake of the pandemic.

Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani and provincial ministers attended the meeting which also reviewed arrangements for Eid prayers and other gatherings.

Mr Umar appreciated the steps taken by the Balochistan government and the civil administration for protection of public health and the implementation of guidelines devised for it. “All stakeholders should work together to inform the public about the code of conduct and SOPs for Eidul Azha, Muharram and cattle markets’ activities,” he said.

Umar calls for religious harmony, unity

He said the next two weeks were crucial with regard to the coronavirus, adding that if SOPs were not implemented the country would have to bear the brunt of negative effect of the outbreak.

Mr Alyani lauded steps taken for convening the NCOC meetings in the provinces.

“Holding the meetings in provinces has facilitated coordination and understanding of important issues,” he said, adding that the NCOC had played a key role in providing resources and access to healthcare equipment and enhancing the capacity of the provinces.

He said that the whole nation through a long and difficult journey had successfully met the challenge of Covid-19 and contained the pandemic with the grace of God. The situation was improving with the passage of time, he added.

NCOC National Coordinator Lt Gen Hamooduz Zaman Khan, Nat­io­nal Assembly’s Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri, focal person for Covid-19 Dr Faisal Sultan, Balochistan Chief Secretary retired Captain Fazeel Asghar, Parliamen­tary Secretary of Balochistan Health Dr Rubaba Khan, federal Health Secretary Aamir Khan, COS southern command Maj Gen Dilawar Khan, Balochistan Police Inspector General Mohsin Hassan Butt and other senior officials attended the meeting. The chief secretaries of other provinces also participated in the meeting through video links.

Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2020