Daily Briefs

Photo : Dawn

15 March 2020, Sunday

COVID-19 and Pakistan: Closing down educational institutions and social gatherings

PR Daily Brief | Lakshmi V Menon

The National Coordination Committee (NCC) was set up by the National Security Committee (NSC) on 13 March, to grapple with the coronavirus outbreak in Pakistan via day-to-day analysis methods. (The News International, 14 March 2020)

NCC is a high-level body with the ability to take coordinated efforts to implement unanimous national-level decisions regarding the pandemic. National Disaster Management Authority would lead the efforts and dispense required funds. NCC would be convened by Directorate of Military Operations and consist of chief ministers, federal ministers, Surgeon General of Pakistan, NDMA chairman, and representatives of Inter Services Public Relations and Inter-Services Intelligence. 

NCC, chaired by PM Imran Khan, made significant decisions. First, the shutdown of educational institutions for three weeks. Second, ban on social or public gatherings for two weeks. Third, shutdown of all airports except Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi for international travel and complete closure of Pakistan’s western border with Afghanistan and Iran for two weeks “in the best interest of all three brotherly countries”. To safeguard trade, seaports will continue to operate with heightened screening and surveillance facilities. Fourth, the cancelation of Pakistan Parade Day.

As per SAPM on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza’s statement to the media, NSC appraised the coronavirus situation while resolving to ensure public health and safety. He confirmed 28 cases (now 30) and mentioned seven newly emerging cases in Taftan. He also requested civil courts to suspend hearings for three weeks, and sessions courts and judicial magistrates to decide on remands and bails.

On 13 March, wide-ranging noteworthy developments occurred. First, federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood tweeted that universities, colleges, schools, and madrassas would remain suspended till April 5. Punjab government followed. Previously, Sindh province and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had announced a similar shutdown till May 30 and May 15 respectively.  Second, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) announced the decision to cut short Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2020. The final match would be held on 18 March instead of 23 March.  Third, Islamabad High Court sought federal government’s report on bringing back Pakistani students from China by March 20. Explaining that Pakistani students in China were being provided with all medical care and assistance, Shafqat Mahmood, Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training, said the decision to not bring them back to Pakistan was in the country’s best interest.
Fourth, Dr. Irfan Tahir, Director of Central Health Establishment (CHE) said all immigrants were undergoing temperature screening and thermal scanning at airports. Over a million travelers were already screened, he added. 

Meanwhile, opposition MPs of National Assembly have called for a joint session of Parliament to discuss and deliberate the adopted anti-virus steps; Sindh minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah has offered reward for development of a COVID-19 antidote; Bangladesh has refused to send their cricket team to Pakistan for the matches scheduled to be held on April 1 and April 5; and PPP MNA Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has called for a comprehensive national awareness campaign and an emergency declaration.

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