Lockdown to be eased in phases from tomorrow, says PM Imran

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced that lockdown will be eased in different phases from Saturday (tomorrow).
In a media briefing here on Thursday after the National Coordination Committee meeting regarding COVID-19, the Prime Minister said the decision has been taken in consultation with all the provinces to ease out people’s lives. He said labourers, ordinary people, and small business have suffered a lot due to lockdown, which prompted the government to open the curbs.
He said, “Thirty-five percent of our revenue collection has decreased, while exports have also come down. We have already opened the construction sector and from today we are going to open various sectors relating to the construction industry.”
The Prime Minister appealed the people to observe self-discipline and standard operating procedure (SOP) to prevent spread of coronavirus pandemic, when curbs of lockdown are eased.
He said, “We can again go for lockdown if coronavirus cases increase in the country to beyond limits.” He said social distancing and precautionary measures are prerequisites to avoid spread of the virus and a responsible society realizes this fact.
Imran Khan said, “We have to protect our people, especially the downtrodden, from coronavirus as well as hunger and other diseases.” He said the government has given the biggest ever relief package of the country’s history to support the under privileged people, who lost their jobs or businesses due to coronavirus.
The Prime Minister said, “We have passed on dividends of reduced oil prices in the international market by slashing prices of petrol and diesel.” He added that petroleum prices in Pakistan are the lowest in the region.
Expressing that he himself was in favour of opening public transport, the Premier said the provinces could not agree on the opening of public transport at this moment. “We do not have complete consensus on opening public transport yet,” he said.
“We have asked the provinces to make SOPs so that public transport could be made functional. Public transport has even opened in the countries where 30,000 people passed away due to coronavirus,” he added.
Commenting on the issue of bringing overseas Pakistan to the country, Imran Khan said roughly 125,000 Pakistanis wanted to come back but “we need to go for self-quarantine if we wish to bring them back”.
“When we bring people from abroad we have to conduct tests, keep them in quarantine and we do not have that many resources,” he maintained, adding that “Pakistanis coming from abroad will have to go for self-quarantine.”
Speaking on the occasion, Prime Minister’s Focal Person on COVID-19 Dr Faisal said that undoubtedly, tally of corona cases has gone up in the country, which has put some pressure on national health system. “However, it should be clear that our health system has the capacity to handle the situation and we have yet not reached a saturated point,” he added, urging the people to observe social distancing and SOPs recommended by the government for the containment of the pandemic.
Giving detail of the decision taken at the NCC, Planning Minister Asad Umar said small markets and shops in streets and rural areas will be allowed to open from dawn to 5:00 pm. He said the entire businesses, except outlets of essential items like food and medicine, will remain closed two days a week.
Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar said it has been unanimously decided to open allied industries of the construction sector, which include paint and pipe mills, tiles, electrical and industry and hardware stores across Pakistan.
Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mehmood said educational institutions will remain closed till 15 July. He said all the board examinations have been cancelled and students will be promoted to the next class and they can get admission in colleges and universities on the basis of their previous result. For example, a student can get admission in a university on the basis of his 11th class result.
Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on National Security Division Moeed Yousaf said all the stranded Pakistanis will be brought back. He said so far, 20,000 overseas Pakistanis have been brought back from various countries. He said 40,000 stranded Pakistanis will be brought back from 32 countries next week. He said, “We will be brought back 7,500 stranded Pakistanis every week.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan has reiterated his commitment to further deepen bilateral relations with Nigeria, particularly in trade and economic domains, in the context of Pakistan’s “Engage Africa” initiative.
The Prime Minister expressed these views while talking to President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria on telephone on Thursday.
The two leaders agreed that both sides would work closely in New York alongside the UN Secretary-General and other interested countries and partners to advance the shared goals.
While noting encouraging response from the United Nations (UN), International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB) and other stakeholders, the Prime Minister underscored the need for additional measures and resources for regenerating growth and livelihoods.
The two leaders discussed the unprecedented socio-economic challenges arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Khan highlighted his call for “Global Initiative for Debt Relief” for developing countries. President Buhari expressed support for the initiative.
They agreed that Pakistan and Nigeria face similar circumstances.
The Prime Minister also highlighted the steps taken to contain the spread of coronavirus in Pakistan. He highlighted exceptional challenge faced by developing countries to save lives from COVID-19 as well as fighting poverty and hunger.
The Prime Minister conveyed Pakistan’s solidarity with the government and people of Nigeria, and commended their effective measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Prime Minister Imran Khan also extended a cordial invitation to President Buhari to visit Pakistan at his earliest convenience.
On May 4, Prime Minister Imran Khan had telephoned his Ethiopian counterpart Abiy Ahmed Ali to discuss matters of mutual interest and the global coronavirus pandemic. The two also leaders agreed on the importance of working together to evolve a comprehensive plan for debt relief issues. – TLTP

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