N restrictions on economic activities, industrial production: CM

LAHORE: Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar has said that the government is not going to impose any restrictions on economic activities and industries.

He said there were no curbs on goods’ transportation and the construction sector would continue its activities as routine while ensuring strict compliance of the corona-related standard operating procedures (SOPs).

He was addressing a press conference after chairing a meeting of the cabinet committee for eradication of corona at his office on Monday. Provincial ministers Dr Yasmin Rashid, Murad Raas, Yasir Humayun, Special Assistant to Chief Minister (SACM) Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, chief secretary, IG Police, additional chief secretary (ACS-Home) and secretary Primary & Secondary Healthcare were also present.

The chief minister said that a decision had been made to enforce strict lockdown in districts with more than 12 per cent corona positivity rate from April 1, to control the virus. The lockdown would continue till April 11, while the cabinet committee would take stock of the situation after seven days to take further decisions, he added.

He said that the province was facing the third corona wave which was more intense than the second and first waves, while the positivity rate had reached 14 per cent. The majority of positive cases had been reported in Lahore, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Rawalpindi, Sargodha, Faisalabad and Multan. He said that positive test rate remained 21 per cent in Lahore during the last 24 hours. That was very serious because the health system was overloaded due to the burden on hospitals. He added that it was imperative to take measures to control the virus as industries and businesses could not be closed down. The government was not in favour of restrictions, but it was not possible without the support and cooperation of people, he added.

While briefing the media about the decisions taken in the meeting as well as the latest corona situation, the CM said that the corona situation was critical in some cities of the province as positive cases had reached 215, 227 as 2, 309 cases were reported on Sunday. The total number of positive cases had reached 23, 106 and 252 patients were in critical condition, he added. As many as 6, 244 patients have died of corona as 39 patients lost their lives during the last 24 hours. Also, 15, 780 were tested during this period, he added.

The chief minister announced a strict ban on wedding events from April 1 and marriage halls would be totally shut down and permission would not be granted for holding any indoor or outdoor gathering of any sort. Similarly, a decision had also been made to close down mass transit transport, which includes Metro bus service, Orange Line train and Speedo bus service. Similarly, he announced that indoor and outdoor dining would also be banned in hotels and restaurants while takeaway and home delivery service would continue. Sports, cultural, social and other gatherings would be totally banned along with going to parks, he added and further announced that markets and bazaars would be closed at 6pm. Shops would remain closed for two days a week, he added.

Usman Buzdar said that non-compliance of the SOPs would result in further deterioration and added that the Punjab government was striving to implement the restrictions. The people could remain safe from the deadly virus by wearing facemasks, he added.

More than 15, 000 tests could be conducted every day as 22 BSL-III labs were working in the province, he said. Along with it, 126 vaccine centres had been established in the province and 121, 527 healthcare workers given the first dose, he added. A total of 456, 000 doses of corona vaccine had been received and 54, 885 healthcare workers had also been given the second dose, he said. As many as 151, 447 citizens of more than 60 years of age had been vaccinated as well, he added. The government machinery was fully active to save citizens from corona and people should also observe precautions while extending cooperation to the government machinery, he added.

The government was desirous of protecting the health of people while keeping the economy wheel moving, the CM added. The countries with the best healthcare system were unable to control the disease and the media must extend support in the larger public interest, he said.

To another question, the CM said the educational institutions would remain closed till April 11 and a ban had been placed on the public transport to discourage people from moving out.

To various questions, the CM said that legal action would be initiated in case of violation of the corona SOPs, adding that the chief secretary and IG Police had been instructed to personally monitor the observance of SOPs.

Replying to a question, Education Minister Murad Raas said that students were given a fee discount last year when schools were closed down by the government. “We have to give relief to both parents as well as the schools as several schools were closed down afterwards.” He added that the schools were not closed down in 26 districts and students were attending their institutions while observing the SOPs.

The government would try to ensure that schools of other districts were also opened after April 11, he added. “I have met a delegation of teachers engaged in agitation and a promise has been made with them that their genuine demands would be fulfilled from 5 to 9 April, but the teachers did not fulfill their commitment, ” he said while giving a reply to another question.

SACM Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said that agitating teachers were violating corona SOPs. CM Usman Buzdar held a meeting and gave responsibility to the ministers to amicably settle the issue as the government did not want to deal with the teachers strictly, she added.