3 December 2021
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Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar spoke on Wednesday to the media about the increase in infections and deaths from the coronavirus as well as the possibility of further government restrictions on businesses that did not take precautions against the virus.

Umar spoke about the current disregard by the public for Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) against the pandemic. The minister said in October increasing lack of safety precautions among the public had them foreseeing the virus spreading more rapidly.

To make his point, he spoke about how the positivity ratio in the country had risen from 2% in October to over 8% in December. The minister pointed out that in a sample week from October, there were on average eight deaths daily from the coronavirus, but this week there have been over 60 deaths every day.

He mentioned that there has been a four-fold rise in the number of hospitalisations and deaths of patients who needed supplementary oxygen. He pointed out that this quadrupling in the number of cases over the last two months was despite some major decisions taken by the government, such as closing schools, a ban on indoor weddings and guest restrictions on outdoor weddings as well as a ban on indoor dining.

Acknowledging that these were painful decisions, especially for organisations like private schools, which were filling in the domestic education gap on shoe-string budgets, Umar promised a relief package for private schools and businesses.

The federal minister said it was dangerous for people to listen to rhetoric by political leaders that lead them to go to political rallies. The politicisation of the coronavirus is leading people to disregard safety procedures for themselves and others, he warned. He pointed out that a few tens of thousands of people might attend a rally, however tens of millions at home would be listening to this rhetoric and consequently putting themselves at risk.

Umar went on to praise the ulema for listening to the government, doctors and paramedics for their sacrifice and even the media for spreading the government’s message.

The minister, while speaking from the National Command and Operations Centre promised that tomorrow Prime Minister Imran Khan would meet with all the provincial chief ministers at a session of the National Coordination Committee.

Abdul Gh Lone