Punjab CM Buzdar announces Rs5bn fund to combat coronavirus


LAHORE: Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar on Wednesday announced a special fund to combat the coronavirus pandemic, which has so far affected 270 people in Pakistan.

The fund, worth Rs5 billion, was aimed at efforts to stop the spread of the virus in the province. This is in addition to a Rs236-million sum allocated to the Punjab health department before the National Security Committee (NSC) meeting; the sum was later bumped up to Rs1 billion, as per a commitment made by the provincial government.

Speaking to the media, Buzdar said he had visited a quarantine centre, reviewed all necessities there, and was briefed on the latest developments. “There are 189 suspected [cases of coronavirus] in Punjab, 143 were negative, 28 positive, 46 were admitted to hospital, and the results for 38 were awaited,” he said.

The CM said the Punjab government “first took up the corona [virus] issue on January 3 and we immediately set up a control room in our health department, as well as a cabinet committee that monitors [the situation] on a daily basis”.

Noting that measures discussed during the high-level NSC meeting were implemented in the province as is.

Health emergency, Section 144 in Punjab

The Punjab government has banned tourist destinations, including Murree, and limited visits for people at secretariat and other [public] offices, he said, adding: “Only skeleton staff will be present there.”

Shopping malls, restaurants, and hotels were to be closed down by 10pm, and only medicine shops, groceries, factories, mills, and markets would remain open with no restrictions, the chief minister added. Further, a public health emergency was declared in Punjab and Section 144 imposed.

With regard to strategic measures, Buzdar said the provincial government had requested its federal counterpart to help make the quarantine facilities better. In that regard, Punjab “will provide support wherever required and even to any other province if they need it”.

“We will negotiate with the Balochistan government on Taftan as to whether we should set up our camp [there] or facilitate them but we will do whatever we can for our people at the border,” he said.

‘Quarantines for 5,000 patients is ready’

“We are in the process of setting up a temporary 1000-bed field hospital so that we are ready should the need arise. Also, 41 high-dependency units have been set up in all districts and three hospitals have been dedicated for coronavirus — in Muzaffargarh, Lahore, and Rawalpindi.

“In addition to that, we have allocated spaces at other [medical] institutes” just in case, he added.

Shortly after Buzdar’s address, the government of Punjab said on Twitter that mobility in markets would be controlled by different measures, ‘work from home’ and social safety measures introduced, and that “quarantines for 5,000 patients is ready”.