LAHORE - Punjab Cabinet which met here on Tuesday with Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar in the chair made a number of important decisions in the wake of threats to human lives due to Corona pandemic.

Approving amendments in the Local Bodies act, the Cabinet decided to delay Local Bodies elections for nine months keeping in view the prevailing situation. Since the Assembly session cannot be convened in the existing circumstances, the Cabinet decided to implement the amendments through an Ordinance. Local bodies elections were scheduled to be held before May 5 this year.

The meeting gave in-principle approval to “The Punjab Infectious Diseases Prevention and Control Ordinance, 2020. It was decided to upgrade three testing laboratories in Lahore to level 3 while approval was also given to set up new level 3 labs in Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, DG Khan, Faisalabad and Bahawalpur for which Rs 62 crore were approved.

Chief Minister directed that establishment of testing labs in every division be examined and immediate steps be taken as well. The meeting permitted to acquire the services of 10,000 doctors, health professional and paramedical staff. The Cabinet accorded approval of Rs 0.8 million as a financial grant to heirs of deceased coronavirus patients.

Cabinet accords approval of Rs 0.8m as a financial grant to heirs of deceased patients

Addressing the meeting, the Chief Minister said that Punjab government was working on an economic package to facilitate the masses and the Finance Minister will give a detailed briefing in the next few days.

Punjab government had also forwarded its recommendations to the federal government and Prime Minister Imran Khan will announce the economic package of the federal government.

 

The ex-post facto approval of requisition for acquiring the services of Pak Army under Article 245 was given. The Cabinet paid tributes to Dr Usama Riaz of Gilgit-Baltistan who sacrificed his life while treating coronavirus patients. “We also appreciate the role being played by medical teams in the treatment of coronavirus patients in Punjab”, said the Chief Minister. 

 

The meeting was also briefed about coronavirus related situation and the Chief Minister and his cabinet members announced to donate their one-month salary to Chief Minister’s fund for corona control.

The meeting was also told that the total number of coronavirus patients in Punjab stood at 265, out of which 176 patients have been quarantined in DG Khan while 59 patients are in Lahore. Similarly, 12 are in Gujrat, seven in Gujranwala, three in Jhelum, two each in Rawalpindi and Multan and one each in Faisalabad and Mandi Bahauddin.

The meeting decided to start distribution of Zakat one month earlier and recommendations were being forwarded to the federal government while the Bait-ul-Maal funds were being released for their early distribution. 

During video link media briefing about the decisions made in the 28th cabinet meeting, the Chief Minister said that Punjab government had released Rs 11 billion to the Health Department with the approval of the Cabinet.

He further told that Rs 2 billion had been given to PDMA besides providing Rs 60 crore  to districts.

He said that Punjab Cabinet had also endorsed the decision of giving Rs one billion to the Balochistan government. 

The Chief Minister told that a Committee had been constituted to review decrease in fee of private schools during holidays and before time summer holidays in schools.

The Committee will submit its recommendations in seven days to take further steps, he said. 

Usman Buzdar further stated that a committee had been constituted under Law Minister Raja Basharat to contact Parliamentary parties of opposition to work jointly against the spread of corona disease. 

Also, the Chief Secretary presented a contingency plan which was approved by the cabinet. However, media was not informed about the details of this contingency plan at this stage.

 The chief minister told that ministers had been assigned duties in districts to take steps for dealing with coronavirus. The meeting directed the health department to complete the procurement of necessary health material as soon as possible.

To a question, the Chief Minister emphasized that implementation on the steps being taken for safety from coronavirus will be ensured at every cost as section 144 is imposed but home delivery of eatables and medicines and the business of raw material used in the making of sanitizer etc will not be affected. In case of any problem, the administration can be approached, he said. 

To another question, he said that SOPs had been issued for mosques and advanced steps were being taken in mosques as the government was fully prepared to deal with the emergency situation.

The Health Department is also fully prepared and funds have also been provided to defeat coronavirus, he said.

To a question, he clarified that it was not a curfew nor lockdown but steps had been taken by the government to protect the lives of the people and the services of the Army had also be acquired under Article 245.

Provincial Ministers Yasmeen Rashid, Raja Basharat, Fayyaz-ul-Hassan Chohan, Hashim Jawan Bakht and Secretary Information were also present.