Wear face masks, follow COVID guidelines or face another lockdown: Pak PM warns people

Islamabad: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday urged the people of Pakistan to strictly follow the COVID-19 guidelines, warning that another nationwide lockdown will be imposed if the spiralling coronavirus crisis continues to worsen.

Addressing the nation after chairing a meeting of the National Coordination Committee, the highest national forum to tackle the pandemic, Khan said the Army has been asked to help police to implement the social-distancing guidelines in the country to contain the spread of coronavirus.

“I am appealing to you to follow SoPs so that we don’t have to take steps that India is taking which means imposing lockdowns, he said, adding that half the problem will be solved if people started wearing face masks.

Khan, who was himself affected by the disease last month, warned that major cities would be closed down if the situation continued to deteriorate.

“If our circumstances become the same as India, then we will have to close down cities, he said.

The Prime Minister said his government was trying to avoid the lockdowns as it hurts the poor the most, but the situation could change if the pandemic persisted.

“If we (as a nation) don’t take precautionary measures, we will have to impose a lockdown which will also affect our economy at a time when it is on the rise, he said and urged the people to follow the SoPs as they did during Ramzan last year.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry after the prime minister’s speech tweeted that the Army was summoned in the major cities.

“Due to the deteriorating coronavirus situation, the Prime Minister has called the army in the major cities so that the SoPs are completely followed, he said.

Chaudhry also said that the country was using 90 per cent of its oxygen capacity and there was no other option except following the precaution.

Earlier, Planning Minister Asad Umar, who is also chief of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), briefed the meeting about the increasing threat of COVID-19.

He said that the NCOC decided to shut schools for secondary and higher secondary classes in the districts where the positivity rate was higher than 5 per cent.

Umar said markets will be closed in the country after 6 pm and only essential services will be allowed to operate after that.

Prime Minister Khan’s warning came hours after Pakistan recorded 5,870 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, while 144 more people succumbed to the deadly virus.

The total number of cases has reached 784,108 and the COVID-19 death toll touched 16,842. Another 4,652 patients were in critical condition. The positivity rate in the country was 10.91, according to the Ministry of National Health Services.

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