–Imran says restrictions to be relaxed in tourism sector, warns of more corona cases, deaths
–Says complete lockdown not feasible, ‘people will have to learn to live with virus’
–NCC decides to impose lockdown on weekends, keep shop timings unchanged for rest of the week
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday announced further easing of lockdown measures across the country amid appeals to people to adopt the standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued by the government, as Pakistan confirmed 60 more deaths from the disease during the past 24 hours.
According to the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), 2,964 new coronavirus cases surfaced during the past 24 hours, taking the nationwide tally to 72,460. According to the latest figures, 26,240 cases have so far been detected in Punjab, 28,245 in Sindh, 10,027 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), 4,393 in Balochistan, 2,589 in Islamabad, 711 in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), and 255 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). 26,083 people have been recovered from the virus so far. Pakistan has so far conducted 561,136 coronavirus tests with 14,398 tests in the past 24 hours.
Earlier on Monday, a meeting of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) decided to impose a complete lockdown on weekends while keeping the shop timings unchanged for the rest of the week
The NCC’s decision is in direct contrast with the Punjab health department’s recommendation of enforcing a complete lockdown for at least four weeks since a smart lockdown would not be effective anymore as all areas of Lahore have already been affected by the disease, affecting an estimated 670,800 residents so far.
‘COVID-19 WILL CONTINUE TO SPREAD’:
Addressing the media after chairing a meeting of the NCC, Prime Minister Imran announced that the government has decided to “open all the sectors” apart from those where the threat of “virus is still present”.
The premier warned the country that the coronavirus will continue to spread unabated and that people need to learn to live with it until a vaccine is developed. He appealed the nation to adopt standard operating procedures (SOPs) and other precautionary measures to curb the spread of the virus.
“The world has agreed, the richest countries have come to the conclusion that the virus will spread no matter what. Nothing can be done about it. The virus will spread and our death toll will also rise […] I told you that from day one,” he said.
Prime Minister Imran said that he was always against lockdowns, saying that if it were up to him, he never would have imposed a lockdown. He added that lockdowns were not a “cure” for the coronavirus.
“Due to the presence of 18th Amendment, provinces in our country can make their own decisions,” Khan said, as he derided the “elites” of the country who did not care about the welfare of the poor.
“The reality of our country is that there are 25 million labourers whose families will starve if they don’t work. So I, personally, have always believed that a lockdown was going to affect these workers.
“When we impose and enforce lockdowns, people starve. Those who live in DHA don’t care about these things,” the premier stated.
Prime Minister Imran said that the lockdown had caused “massive suffering” for people who relied on daily wages to feed their families. He cited the example of India as a country that had failed to take care of its needy citizens during the countrywide lockdown.
“Just look at India. They imposed a strict lockdown. And look at the effect of it on their migrant workers. Dozens have died on train tracks. Poverty has become rampant there. And the virus is still spreading,” he said.
Addressing the frontline healthcare workers fighting against Covid-19, the prime minister said that while his thoughts and prayers were with them during their “jihad” against the virus, they needed to understand that lifting the lockdown was necessary, as the country has more than 50 million people who live below the poverty line.
‘TOURISM SHOULD BE REVIVED’:
Prime Minister Imran said that the country’s tourism industry should be revived once again, stating that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) governments will soon issue SOPs to allow reopening of the sector.
“I think that tourism should be revived because that sector provides jobs to many in GB and elsewhere,” he said.
“There are areas in our country [GB and KP] that can only be toured during the summer months. If we continue to impose lockdowns in those areas, the local people who rely on income from tourism to survive will starve,” Khan argued.
The premier also announced that all the Pakistani nationals stranded abroad will be repatriated to the country.
“I want to talk about overseas Pakistanis. I’m worried about our labourers in UAE and Saudi Arabia. They send valuable remittances to us.
“We have decided that we will bring all of them back. This is good news for them and their families,” Khan said.
He, however, stated that the government will test them all on arrival but that they will have to quarantine themselves if they are infected.