Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday appealed to the opposition to postpone its rallies in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus amid a second wave of the disease.
Speaking during a televised addressed, the premier said 64 per cent of the beds allocated for coronavirus patients were now occupied in Multan where the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) held a rally on November 1.
“When people gather [in one place], the virus spreads. Some days after, because there is a timeline, approximately a week or ten days after, you begin seeing patients at hospitals.”
He added that 40pc of beds allocated for Covid-19 patients were also occupied in Peshawar, where the 11-party opposition alliance had staged a public meeting on November 22.
“Approximately 50pc of the beds are occupied in Islamabad. The national average of Covid-19 beds currently occupied is approximately 40pc. The point of stating this is that coronavirus cases are increasing.”
The premier maintained that with the onset of winter, it will become more difficult to curb the spread of the virus.
“Corona spreads … more quickly when people are in rooms as opposed to when they are outside. So as the colder months progress, and people gather around heaters, chances of the virus spreading will increase.”
If the virus keeps spreading at the current rate during the second wave, then our hospitals will fill up, he said.
“This is the time for the entire nation to take precautions and follow SOPs.
“Which means that the biggest SOP to follow is covering your face. When you cover your mouth, chances of the virus spreading rapidly decrease,” he said, urging the nation to use face masks.
The premier also appealed to political parties to rethink its plan for holding rallies. “These rallies and demonstrations will not make any difference to the government but you are putting people’s lives in danger.
“Who has done bigger rallies than us? Will they succeed in ousting the government?” he asked. He stated that when rallies are organised, people come close to one another, increasing chances of the virus spreading.
“So when we already know that the virus is spreading […] then these rallies can be held after two or three months so that we can save people’s lives.”
He added that the entire world was facing a problem in implementing SOPs during the second wave. “Look at Europe, the people are tired and are resisting. They had enforced a lockdown for a very long time.”
PM Imran concluded his address by reiterating that the opposition’s rallies would endanger people’s lives. “[The opposition] thinks it can put pressure on me by holding these rallies. That is not the case. But it will endanger people’s lives.
“Winter is coming […] we need to save our people. Otherwise our health workers will be affected. It will put pressure on our hospitals and will affect the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.”
Despite the government’s warning, the opposition is bent on staging the next rally of its anti-government campaign in Lahore on December 13 and has accused the government of using the virus as an excuse to suppress its voice.
Moments before the prime minister’s address, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz, invited Lahore’s residents to “support Nawaz Sharif” by showing up at Minar-i-Pakistan on Sunday. She was speaking at a PML-N rally in Lahore.
“Someone used to say, I won’t give Nawaz an NRO […] You, who robbed the people, Nawaz will not give you an NRO,” she said.