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Imran urges vigilance as third Covid-19 wave swamps hospitals

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday urged the nation to strictly observe the health guidelines to protect themselves against the coronavirus as he seeks to change the course of a third wave of infections that risk overwhelming hospitals.

“I urge you all to wear face masks, and I appeal you to follow the SOPs [standard operating procedures] for your sake and for the sake of Pakistan,” Khan said while answering the public’s questions via telephone, in a second such session since assuming office in August 2018.

This was the prime minister’s first public appearance since recovering from Covid-19 which he and his spouse Bushra Bibi contracted last month.

He said it was “Allah Almighty’s blessing [on Pakistan] that He protected us from the first two waves of the deadly wave of coronavirus”. In the West, despite vaccinating their people, European countries were imposing general lockdowns, he observed.

Khan mentioned the impact of the third wave in neighbouring countries — particularly India and Bangladesh — and said: “Wearing a mask, or face covering, is the cheapest and most important weapon in the fight against coronavirus.”

“Wear it whenever you are sharing a confined indoor space with people […] in buses […] everywhere.”

“During the first two waves of the pandemic, Allah has been kind to the people of Pakistan […] and Pakistan escaped the negative impacts [of the pandemic], but now the people have become complacent [about protective measures], he said, expressing his worry that it could undo that good fortune.

“People are roaming around [without observing guidelines] without any fear. The more this [disease] spreads, the more burden it would put on our healthcare system,” he said.

The prime minister who last week ruled out a blanket lockdown reiterated his commitment and said his government was implementing targeted restrictions. “[But if the situation worsens] we will be forced to take the tough steps,” he warned.

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus in Pakistan in February last, Khan has sought to avoid a large quaratine, gambling that if he could steer the nation out of the pandemic without locking the country down, he would give the economy a chance to recover from a deep slump.

Citing data, he said the poor were the most affected people globally, and some 150 million people are expected to have slipped below the poverty line. Khan said it was his desire to protect the poor people of society at all costs and added he wanted the public to adopt protective measures.

“We can’t predict how long will this latest surge last,” he said and added it was, therefore, paramount that people strictly adhere to the guidelines.

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