‘If we are careless on Eidul Azha, Pakistan could see another spike in Covid-19 infections,’ warns PM

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Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday appealed to the nation to mark the upcoming Eidul Azha with simplicity and take precautionary measures so that the number of Covid-19 cases in the country do not rise again.

He was speaking to the media after inaugurating the Isolation Hospital and Infectious Treatment Centre (IHITC) in Islamabad.

“The virus spreads rapidly when a large number of people gather,” said the premier, saying “carelessness” on Eidul Fitr in May led to a spike in cases in Pakistan. “This led to pressure on our hospitals, our frontline workers also faced immense pressure, we unfortunately lost lives and the virus peaked.

PM Imran Khan

“After Eid, we took steps to contain the virus, including imposing smart lockdowns […] today, infections are decreasing. By the grace of the Almighty, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), the cooperation of the provinces in implementing instructions — due to the joint efforts of everyone, Pakistan is now among those countries where infections are declining.

“Today, I want to make a special appeal to you all: if we are careless on Eidul Azha, the virus could spread again and there could be a fresh spike in the number of infections. Hospitals will come under pressure again. So I’m appealing to you all to mark this Eid with simplicity.”

He said the government has come up with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for Eidul Azha and how to carry out animal sacrifices. “I appeal to the entire nation to observe Eid with simplicity — for the sake of your country, its economy and especially the elderly and at-risk members of the society.

“If we take care now, then we can manage, God willing, to come out of this pandemic better than other countries.”

Earlier, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Chairman Lt-Gen Mohammad Afzal briefed the prime minister on the isolation centre.

The 250-bed, state-of-the-art medical facility, according to Radio Pakistan, has been constructed in a record forty days at a cost of about Rs980 million.

Planning Minister Asad Umar, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz, Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing and other senior officials were also present at the inauguration.

‘Everyone working together’

Speaking on Geo News’ programme Capital Talk in the evening, Planning Minister Umar reiterated that the virus spreads at places where people gather in a crowd and don’t main a physical distance.

He said although infections had witnessed a spike following Eidul Fitr, data showed that cases had not increased in large numbers because people “largely followed” the health guidelines and kept a distance during prayers in Ramazan.

Umar said the government was appealing to the public to carry out collective sacrifice this Eidul Azha and avoid visiting animal markets. People should also take precautions during Eid prayers and greet each other from a distance, he added.

The minister said cases of the virus were declining in Pakistan not because the pandemic was subsiding globally, but because of people following SOPs and administrative measures.

Responding to a question regarding differences between the federal and Sindh governments over the pandemic response, Umar said: “There is no need to worry about the [politics]. A lot of politics is done on TV over corona, but I want to tell the nation that all sides are working jointly in the practical sense.”