Copy of 2020-03-15T095205Z_1256729658_RC29KF9FFKH2_RTRMADP_3_HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS-PAKISTAN-1584274277911
A sign is put up near a stall during an awareness compaign by an NGO for a preventive measure against the coronavirus, at the St John Cathedral premises in Peshawar on March 15. Image Credit: REUTERS

Islamabad: As the world braces for an overwhelming number of coronavirus cases, Pakistan has announced some drastic measures to contain the spread of the virus, officially known as Covid-19.

On March 13, for the first time, Pakistan’s National Security Committee (NSC) meeting was held to discuss the looming healthcare crisis. Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired the meeting of NSC, a council composed of top civil and military leadership, to review the alarming health situation. The premier directed the officials concerned to devise a comprehensive strategy to prevent the spread of the disease, and take immediate countermeasures.

“While there is a need for caution, there is no need for panic,” Khan advised the public. While urging the people to follow basic hygiene and precautionary measures, he assured them that the health of the people is the government’s foremost priority. He also tweeted that he would address the nation soon and that he is “personally overseeing measures to deal with Covid-19”.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Pakistan has risen to 52, according to local media reports. There are reports that there could be more than 200 suspected cases in hospitals. Pakistan has so far screened 894,256 travellers, according to the March 12 report by National Institute of Health (NIH).

These are top 10 steps announced by Pakistan government:

1. National Coordination Committee for Covid-19 has been established to monitor the situation and take necessary decisions on a daily basis. The committee will have the representation of all provinces and relevant stakeholders.

2. National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) will lead the operations and coordinate with the provincial and district authorities for the necessary implementation of the preventive and curative actions.

3. All educational institutions (schools, colleges, universities, madrassas), both public and private, will remain closed across the country until April 5, 2020.

4. Pakistan will also completely seal its western border with Afghanistan and Iran for two weeks for both travellers and trade to prevent the spread of the pandemic coronavirus. All Pakistani pilgrims arriving from Iran will be placed in 14-day quarantine.

5. Kartarpur, a revered Sikh shrine, will be closed for Pakistani citizens. Indian pilgrims will be allowed to continue visiting.

6. To effectively screen travelers, Pakistan will allow arrival and departure of international flights at only three airports – Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad – with enhanced safety measures. Seaports will remain operational with increased screening and surveillance measures.

7. All public gatherings and large conferences have been banned with immediate effect. Wedding halls and cinemas will be closed for two weeks. Pakistan Super League (PSL) cricket matches will be held without any spectators.

8. Minister for Religious Affairs and Council of Islamic Ideology officials will reach out to Islamic scholars and relevant leaders to work out the modalities for effective management of religious services in the wake of coronavirus.

9. To limit the spread of Covid-19, no visitors would be allowed in prisons for three weeks. Also, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and provincial high courts requested the suspension of all proceedings of civil court, and asked that no cases are scheduled for the next three weeks.

10. A comprehensive food security plan will be devised to avoid any food shortages or hoarding in the coming weeks and months.