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Saturday Mar 21 2020
Web Desk

'Country in war-like situation': LHC seeks report from Punjab govt on measures against coronavirus

Web Desk
Photo: File

LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: A full bench of the Lahore High Court on Friday sought a detailed report from the Punjab government about measures being taken to combat the coronavirus epidemic and the facilities being provided to patients in quarantine. 

Secretary for Primary Healthcare Muhammad Usman and other health officials were present in court when the bench took up a public interest petition questioning the inadequate measures taken by the government in the wake of the novel coronavirus hitting the country.

LHC Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan headed the bench that heard the petition, which comprised of Justice Ayesha Malik, Justice Shahid Jamil Khan and Justice Sajid Mahmood Sethi.  

The chief justice expressed concern when told by the secretary that only two labs in the province, located in Lahore, had been designated for free tests of the coronavirus. 

“Do you think two labs are enough in a province of 100 million?” the LHC CJ asked the secretary.

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In response to another inquiry by the bench, the secretary also admitted that the government had not able to establish quarantine centers on the international standards as the epidemic spreads across the country. 

In his remarks on matter, Justice Shahid Jamil Khan noted with concern that the government kept infected and suspected patients together in quarantine centers, which could aggravate the situation. 

LHC CJ Khan remarked that the country was in a war-like situation and the government needed to create awareness among the public to better manage the spread of the epidemic. 

To a query, the provincial secretary said the federal government would be better able to apprise the court of the situation at the Taftan border with neighbouring Iran. 

Quizzed about the precautionary measures taken for protection against the virus in court premises, the secretary said that standard operation procedures would soon be formulated in this regard after a meeting with the registrar of the LHC.

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The bench adjourned further hearing of the case until March 24 and directed the secretary to furnish a report about the facilities in quarantine centers and the testing facilities being provided by the government to limit the spread of the virus. 

The bench also issued a notice to the federal government and directed a law officer to submit an updated report to court on behalf of Adviser to Prime Minister on Health Zafar Mirza.

Also read: You can now chat with the WHO on WhatsApp about the coronavirus

IHC orders release of prisoners

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday had ordered the release of prisoners involved in petty crimes amid a health crisis created by the spread of the coronavirus. The court directed the authorities concerned to release all those prisoners who were jailed in relation to petty crimes or were jailed for less than seven years.

During a hearing, Chief Justice Islamabad High Court Justice Athar Minallah remarked that having a high number of prisoners in jails may be dangerous as the virus may spread in jails and endanger the health of those incarcerated in there.

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In the order, IHC also barred police from making any unnecessary arrests and asked for the release of those prisoners who did not pose a threat to society. This directive is only applicable to prisoners convicted in cases in IHC, the order clarified. 

Also read: Coronavirus updates, March 21: Latest news on the coronavirus outbreak from Pakistan and around the world

The order will also apply to prisoners who have had their bail pleas rejected. The spread of the coronavirus and the consequent health emergency has prompted the unusual decision, experts say. 

The court has, however, clarified that cases of prisoners being released on bail will continue and the criminals will have to comply with the authorities. Any negligence by the authorities in this regard could have serious consequences, the order stated.

IHC has also ordered Health Ministry to screen all prisoners on release and asked for a detailed report of the prisoners’ release to be submitted to court by March 24.

With additional input from APP

Originally published in The News