ISLAMABAD: Federal government representatives on Sunday claimed that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s decision to go for a smart lockdown instead of complete closure served as a turning point as it not only limited the spread of Covid-19 but also saved the country from an irreversible economic loss.
Two separate press conferences were held — one by Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz and the other by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza — which highlighted the positive outcomes of the government’s policies with regard to Covid-19 and the overall economic situation.
Talking to media personnel at the Press Information Department, Mr Faraz said a number of countries had started following Pakistan’s smart lockdown model but the ‘aristocracy’ in the country was not willing to appreciate PTI government’s policy.
He was accompanied by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Digital Pakistan Tania Aidrus and the prime minister’s focal person on Covid-19, Dr Faisal Sultan, at the press conference.
Say many nations are following Pakistan’s smart lockdown model
Mr Faraz said several countries went for a complete lockdown but they soon realised that this step was not sustainable.
“Countries with a better economic standing than Pakistan had to face a difficult time as not only did they suffer financially but their health sector collapsed as well. In Pakistan, on the other hand, losses were few thanks to the leadership of Imran Khan. The ‘aristocracy’ wanted a complete lockdown. Their representatives would agree with the policies during the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) meetings on Covid-19 but later they would say that a complete shutdown was the only option,” he said.
The minister said cash aid was distributed among 13 million people under the Ehsaas Programme.
“At the start of the pandemic, we lacked data on beds, ventilators and other health facilities, but once the NCOC was established, everything was managed on scientific basis. A strategy was devised to deal with issues on the basis of real-time data,” Mr Faraz said.
Speaking on the occasion, Tania Aidrus said the government’s goal was to minimise problems of the citizens which was why some difficult decisions were taken.
“To keep people aware of our performance, a dashboard was introduced so that they could see data in real time. Today the percentage of positive cases corresponding to tests has dropped to single digit while the number of deaths has also started falling.
“Since we lacked resources to carry out tens of thousands of tests, a targeted testing policy — Tracing, Testing and Quarantine (TTQ) — was introduced on April 23. Provinces also supported us which was why we were in a position to control the virus,” Ms Aidrus said.
Dr Faisal Sultan said the coronavirus situation was much better than the previous month.
“It was the prime minister’s vision to take the middle path so that people would not suffer. Though we used data analysis, I believe team work was the main reason behind our success. I suggest people should continue following the standard operating procedures, maintain social distancing, avoid shaking hands and use sanitiser frequently as the disease can spring back again,” he said.
Dr Sultan added that a decrease in tests was linked to a reduction in the number of patients visiting hospitals and labs.
Dr Zafar Mirza’s presser
Dr Zafar Mirza said all estimates of international organisations on the number of Covid-19 cases in Pakistan had been proved wrong.
He, however, added that the two upcoming events — Eidul Azha and Muharram — could prove critical.
Speaking at the press conference at the NCOC, Dr Mirza said even the international community was admitting that cases had reduced in Pakistan.
“There has been an 80pc reduction in the number of cases, proving the international estimates wrong. But we still have to pass two major challenges — Eidul Azha and Muharram. We had seen cases rise during Eidul Fitr because people ignored social distancing. A similar situation could arise during the upcoming festival,” the special assistant said.
Dr Mirza, however, said the government was preparing to deal with the possible increase in cases, and requested citizens to behave responsibly.
NCOC meeting in Peshawar today
A special morning session of the NCOC will be held today (Monday) in Peshawar.
The session is part of the centre’s initiative to reach out to provincial capitals for making coordinated efforts on various issues and acknowledge the civil administrations for the measures they had taken to contain Covid-19.
Meanwhile, according to the data released by the NCOC on Sunday, 238 ventilators, out of 1,859, were in use throughout the country.
Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2020