ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Planning and Special Initiatives Asad Umar has urged people to take precautionary measures against the Covid-19 breakout seriously.

“Curbing the spread of the virus is our top priority as well as improvement in the healthcare system of the country. More than 1,900 precious lives have so far been lost in Pakistan due to this killer disease, which shows the enormity and gravity of the situation," the Minister said Saturday, while briefing the media at the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) in Islamabad.

He said that the government's first and foremost priority was to slow the pace of spread of corona pandemic.

Umar said two of the most important components of this strategy were: strictly follow the precautionary measures advised by the medical community, and “bring about changes in our lifestyles".

The minister said the people who were not adopting precautionary measures were not only risking their own lives, but also the lives of others.

“We cannot impose a protracted lockdown. Safety precautions are a powerful measure against the pandemic. It is important, we make changes in our lifestyle and take safety precautions," he added.

“For me saving lives is the most important thing but let us not forget that a huge part of the country would have been without jobs had the lockdown gone on for long," Umar said.

“For weeks, the nation was disciplined and followed guidelines however, this ended when the lockdown was eased for Eid. The government wants you to live freely but also wants you to live responsibly. I appeal to industry leaders that it is our collective responsibly to follow guidelines and make sure the SOPs are being followed," he added.

Umar said district administrations across the country had been directed to take strict action where people flout the rules and the SOPs.

He said the basic aim entrusted to administration was to protect the lives of 210 million people in Pakistan.

The planning minister said the government wanted to help people earn their livelihoods, but not at the cost of peril to the health of others.

He said, “no one can be allowed to endanger life of others."

The minister said 884 areas of Pakistan had been under smart lockdown actions with more than 200,000 people impacted due to restrictions.

He said the second priority of the government was to improve the health services for the people.

He said work had been done to improve testing systems and now over 22,000 tests were being conducted daily.

He added, “We now have ventilators specifically dedicated for coronavirus patients and we are working on getting more. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) had some ventilators, which are being released to the provinces as their requirement is increasing."

“Today, we can manufacture products and are even getting orders for exports," he said.

The minister added they were also creating a helpline for the doctors where they could complain about a lack of protective gear and the problems they were facing in the hospitals.

“We are also working on an App named Pak Nigahban through which people will be able to get the latest information regarding the availability of beds in hospitals and other information regarding the virus," he added.

He said on 26th February when first cases emerged there were only eight laboratories capable of testing people in the country.

He said today we have more than 100 laboratories in the country, which can conduct coronavirus tests.

“We are also continuously working on increasing our testing capacity," he said.

The minister, while paying rich tributes to the services of frontline medical staff, said the government was taking all possible steps to help them dispense their duties efficiently.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020