– Prime Minister Imran Khan asks Opposition to put rallies for another 2-3 months in view of rising coronavirus cases.
– Says people do not wear masks when they participate in gatherings.
– Following rally in Multan, hospitals have a 64% bed occupancy rate.
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday urged the Opposition to put off political rallies amid an increasingly worrying coronavirus situation in Pakistan.
"An average of 40% of the country's hospital beds are occupied with coronavirus patients," he said, while also appealing to the nation to strictly abide by wearing a mask, as it is the easiest precaution and our first line of defense against the contagious disease.
The prime minister warned that a time will come when the hospital beds will no longer be vacant and there will be an added pressure on hospital workers, besides a more precarious situation for the elderly or people with secondary health concerns.
His remarks come three days ahead of a major rally planned by the Opposition's 11-party alliance, Pakistan Democratic Movement, at Lahore's Minar-e-Pakistan, on December 13.
"Right now, following the rally in Multan, 64% beds reserved for coronavirus patients lie occupied," he added.
The prime minister explained that when a large gathering takes place, the fallout is seen about 10 days later.
He said similarly, 40% beds in Peshawar are occupied by coronavirus patients and about 50% of Islamabad's hospital beds reserved for such patients are occupied.
PM Imran Khan's remarks come as a report by the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) showed that 56 people had died from the virus in the last 24 hours. The most deaths occurred in Punjab (21), followed by Sindh (15).
Of the 56 deaths, 36 died on ventilator.
'Hold rallies later'
Addressing Opposition parties, he appealed to them to rethink their strategy of holding mass rallies. "It will make no difference to the government whatsoever. But the people's lives will be put at risk."
"And who has held bigger rallies than us. What will happen? Will the government fold?"
He said that when people congregate for such gatherings, they don't wear masks.
"When you know this to be so […] and there is so much pressure on medical workers as the beds continue to fill up, why don't you put off your rallies for two to three months so we can save people's lives?"
The prime minister said that wedding halls, schools and restaurants were all shut down and when the government speaks to stakeholders, they all say "you have stopped our businesses and our livelihoods are affected but you are allowing political rallies".
"So you are creating a lot of problems for us," he said to the Opposition.
Spread of coronavirus in closed spaces
PM Imran Khan said that with winter upon us, and the temperatures will continue to drop. "Coronavirus spreads when people get together. In the open air, there is a reduced chance of its spread but when people get together in a room […] around a heater, the numbers will increase," he said.
"If it continues to spread at the rate it is, our hospitals will be full."
Speaking of other countries, such as the US and Europe, he said that if the situation is so bad in places where there are far more resources available to fight coronavirus, one can only imagine how dire the situation will be for Pakistan.
"My aim in saying all this is to tell you: This is the time. We all need to exercise caution. Covering your face is the biggest SOP you can follow. When you wear a mask around people, the chances of contracting the virus will be greatly diminished."
'We've been blessed but now must help ourselves'
PM Imran Khan said that even in the rest of the world, in the second wave of coronavirus, the challenge is to have people follow coronavirus safety protocols. "Even in Europe people are resisting (against government prescribed rules)."
"Today in England there is a complete lockdown, as there is in California. We had saved our country from a lockdown becauses people's livelihoods are impacted.
"So it is of paramount importance we save ourselves from coronavirus and follow SOPs. In the first wave, we were saved by Allah because we all showed discipline and followed SOPs," the prime minister said.
He said in India and Iran things are far worse and many people are dying, whereas Pakistan has been blessed. "If we want these blessings to continue we will have to help ourselves and for that we must all follow SOPs."
The prime minister reiterated that rallies will create "no pressure on the government".
He said that all that will happen is that health workers, doctors, nurses, hospitals, elderly and the ill will come under pressure and risk "and it is for the sake of these people I appeal to you to follow SOPs".