ISLAMABAD: With reports of an increase in Covid-19 cases in Punjab after Eidul Azha, the government has prepared standard operating procedures (SOPs) specific for the upcoming events of Independence Day and Muharram.
A meeting of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) was held on Friday which discussed, in detail, the roadmap and measures being adopted to open various sectors and the preparedness ahead of Independence Day celebrations and Muharram.
It was informed that a complete code of conduct had been devised to ensure social distancing, wearing of masks and compliance with SOPs.
The meeting — presided over by Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar — was told that SOPs for Muharram had been prepared under which only registered processions would be allowed to be taken out and their organisers asked to avoid narrow streets. Speakers would have to wear masks and maintain a distance of at least six feet from the first row of the majlis participants.
Similarly, the use of sanitisers at the entry points and wearing of masks would be mandatory for those attending Independence Day events.
Mr Umar had announced on Thursday that the government was reopening sectors like tourism, transport (trains and flights), marriage halls, hotels and restaurants from August 10.
He gave the credit for the reduction in coronavirus cases to citizens for their observance of the SOPs.
The minister said health guidelines should be followed while reopening the closed sectors.
“Coronavirus threat is still there and if health guidelines are not followed, there is always a threat of the disease spreading again,” he warned.
“People of Pakistan have shown great patience and complied with the health guidelines. If the same spirit is followed till Muharram, it will help mitigate the health challenges,” he added.
Mr Umar urged the federal and provincial administrations to ensure public safety and wellbeing by implementing effective measures during Muharram.
Federal Minister for Interior retired Brig Ejaz Ahmed Shah and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan also attended the meeting.
Meanwhile, according to media reports, virus cases have increased again in Punjab after Eidul Azha.
The number of cases per day, which had dropped to below 100 during the last one week, has increased to around 300.
The reports said though some medical experts were not worried with the increase in cases, calling it a routine surge, others believed that it might be a signal to a beginning of a second wave of Covid-19.
On Thursday, Punjab reported 277 new confirmed cases and five deaths during the last 24 hours as against 235 a day earlier.
Senators visit NCOC
Members of the Senate Standing Committee on Defence visited the NCOC on Friday and lauded the joint efforts of the centre and the federating units against Covid-19.
The delegation was led by Senate Standing Committee on Defence Chairman Senator Walid Iqbal.
Federal Minister Asad Umar, who also heads the NCOC, briefed the senators about the steps taken in collaboration with the federating units to overcome the coronavirus outbreak.
He said all policy decisions on Covid-19 were being made with mutual consensus of the federating units.
Senator Walid Iqbal extended his gratitude to the NCOC and the armed forces for their support to the civil administration in dealing with the pandemic.
Senator Iqbal said the Senate Standing Committee on Defence acknowledged and appreciated the critical role played by the NCOC in the fight against Covid-19, adding that it was a classic example of outstanding civil-military collaboration.
The NCOC’s efforts had enabled people to bring about a voluntary behavioural change, which led to a decline in the number of cases, Senator Iqbal said, adding that no complacency should, however, be observed by people in adopting safety and health protocols.
The senators interacted with the NCOC team and gave their suggestions. They also offered fateha for those who had lost their lives due to the virus.
The meeting was attended by NCOC National Coordinator Lt Gen Hamooduz Zaman, Interior Minister retired Brig Ejaz Ahmed Shah, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan, National Disaster Management Authority Chairman Lt Gen Mohammad Afzal and the Senate body members including senators Walid Iqbal, retired Lt Gen Abdul Qayyum, Anwarul Haq Kakar, Mushahid Hussain Syed, Sajjad Hussain Turi, Abdul Rehman Malik and Mushtaq Ahmed Khan.
Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2020