Udayavni Special

Pak following ‘holistic’ strategy to combat COVID-19; rules out adopting WHO recommendation


PTI, Jun 11, 2020, 10:11 AM IST

Islamabad: Pakistan’s top health official on Wednesday, June 10 asserted that the government is following a “holistic” strategy to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic as he ruled out adopting the WHO’s recommendation of implementing a two-week strict lockdown, intermittently, to stem the exponential spike in the coronavirus cases.

Pakistan on Tuesday saw a steep rise in the coronavirus cases with the highest single-day spike of over 6,000 new cases, taking the total tally to 116,868. The deadly virus has so far claimed 2,306 lives.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza said that the government is pursuing a “holistic strategy to combat the coronavirus”.

The government, he said, is “conscious” of the disease spread and mortality and has put in place “a very robust” national coordinating and decision-making mechanism at the highest level.

“We have made the best sovereign decisions in the best interest of our people. We have to make tough policy choices to strike a balance between lives and livelihoods,” Mirza said.

He said that Pakistan has consciously but gradually eased generalized lockdowns but at the same time has focused on enforcement of standard operating procedures (SOPs) in shops, industry, mosques, and public transport.

In a letter to the Punjab health minister last week, the World Health Organisation said the virus has spread all over the country, and a large number of cases had been recorded in big cities.

The cases had increased sharply after the easing of lockdown. It ranks Pakistan among the top-10 most affected countries.

The letter appreciated Pakistan’s efforts in fighting COVID-19 but warned that recent statistics suggest its current strategy was not paying off.

It recommended that the government adopt a two-week-on, two-week-off lockdown, as it offered the most chance of continuing economic activities while ensuring public health, the Express Tribune reported.

Mirza said Pakistan’s choice of policies has been guided by the best evidence available about the disease spread and the best assessment of the fast deteriorating socio-economic conditions in the country.

“WHO is a UN specialized technical agency on health…We understand that it is their role to provide recommendations to member states but understandably theirs is the health-lens, whereas governments have to take into account a holistic picture and make decisions on the relative risk assessment basis and this has been the case in Pakistan all along,” he said.

Mirza said that the government has made mask donning compulsory. It has also developed a robust tracing, testing, and quarantine policy to identify hotspots and cordon-off them.

“Currently, there are more than 700 such smart lock-downs in place. Another plank of our strategy is ramping up our health system capacity to cater to the growing number of patients,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah in a press conference in Karachi said his government was helpless in imposing restrictions to control the spread of Covid-19 after orders were issued by the Supreme Court to reopen businesses and the federal government downplayed the threat.

He said people stopped caring about coronavirus after orders were issued by the apex court at the time of Eid to reopen businesses and the federal government’s attempts to downplay the threat.

“We appeared in the Supreme Court and told them that we don’t want to reopen [the economy].

Then we were told to follow the federal government’s lead on opening. After a strict order like that, what could we have done?” Shah said while answering a reporter’s question.

“Now if they don’t care or don’t realize [the situation], what can we do?” he added, in an apparent reference to the federal government.

Out of the total 116,868 coronavirus cases, Punjab has registered 43,460 cases, Sindh 43,790, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa 15,206, Balochistan 7,031, Islamabad 5,963, Gilgit-Baltistan 974 and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir 444.

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