Planning Minister Asad Umar warned on Tuesday that within two weeks, Pakistan would face the same situation as in June, when the country saw a peak in Covid-19 cases, unless the public changes its attitude.
Addressing a media briefing after a meeting of the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC), which was chaired by Umar, the minister said: “The rate at which the virus spread in growing, and there is no reason that it would not grow at the same rate unless we change our attitude and take precautions, within two weeks we’ll be in the same situation that we faced in June, when Pakistan saw its first peak.”
He urged the masses to take precautions, including mask-wearing, hand washing, and avoiding handshakes and physical contact.
Umar recalled that in June, the situation had gotten so serious that people had trouble finding beds in hospitals. He said that the government does not want the situation to get to the point where the lives and incomes of people are threatened.
Ban on political gatherings, not politics
He also spoke against political gatherings and urged political leaders to spread awareness among their supporters. He added that the National Assembly speaker had summoned a meeting of the parliamentary committee formed to tackle coronavirus after the NCOC wrote them a letter. The meeting, which will be held tomorrow, is expected to be attended by the political leadership of all parties, Umar said.
“We will hopefully be able to sit and decide how to separate people’s lives and livelihoods from politics,” he said.
“There is no ban on politics in this country,” Umar reasoned, adding that the government had imposed a ban on political rallies and gatherings because they can be a source of the virus’ spread. He said that the Islamabad High Court had declared in one of its verdicts that the decisions being made by the NCOC and National Coordination Committee are for the larger interest of the public and should be followed.
“We know that when corona spreads, people’s income is affected badly and we have seen this happen in the world’s richest countries,” he said, adding that the government does not want a situation where the lives and income of the masses are threatened.
“Even if I think as a politician, my politics will drown if I am seen involved in activities that endanger people’s health, lives and livelihood,” said the minister.
“Obviously, any place where 10,000-40,000 people have gathered together, there is a danger of the disease spreading,” he said and added that in today’s meeting, the Sindh health minister had pointed out that Ehsaas Programme’s aid distribution centres pose a risk of an outbreak.
“If a gathering of a few 100 people in a place where following of SOPs can be ensured, can threaten an outbreak, imagine what a bigger crowd can do,” the planning minister said.
He also recalled that this was not the first time he had sounded the alarm regarding a rapid increase in cases. Prime minister’s aide Dr Faisal Sultan and he himself had warned of a second wave in early October, Umar said.
Separately, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also criticised the opposition for “defying government and courts with total disregard for sanctity of life” by conduction political rallies.