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May 7, 2020

Easing lockdown: Opening of shops, domestic flights recommended

Top Story

May 7, 2020

Easing lockdown: Opening of shops, domestic flights recommended

ISLAMABAD: In an inter-provincial education ministers’ conference on Wednesday, Punjab, Sindh, and Balochistan opposed the reopening of educational institutions after June 1.

Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood chaired the meeting during which the provinces recommended that the educational institutions should remain closed.

The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) will make a final decision in this regard, as consensus in this regard could not be reached in the meeting, say media reports. Meanwhile, the National Command and Operation Centre Wednesday proposed that the lockdown should be eased after May 9.

Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar chaired the NCOC meeting which was also attended by the chief ministers of four provinces and representatives of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan governments.

The NCOC also proposed resumption of transportation services across the country. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan has summoneda National Coordination Committee (NCC) meeting tomorrow (Thursday) to mull over the NCOC proposals. On Tuesday, the federal cabinet approved a proposal for easing the countrywide restrictions after May 9.

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz said this while briefing the media about the decisions taken during the meeting presided over by PM Imran.

The prime minister again emphasised the need for taking care of the vulnerable segments of society, and those who were rendered jobless in the wake of lockdown, Faraz said. Faraz said Imran had backed the proposal for easing the lockdown restrictions, keeping in view the hardships being faced by people.

However, he warned of an abrupt spike in infections if the standard operating procedures (SOPs) were not implemented strictly after easing of the lockdown.

Asad Umar also briefed the ministers about the coronavirus situation in the country and informed the cabinet members that Pakistan's situation was far better than many developed countries as far as COVID-19 infections and deaths were concerned.

The NCOC has firmed up multiple recommendations to ease the lockdown restrictions imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The measures include the opening of inter-provincial transportation in line with laid down Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), and operationalisation of selective of Outdoor Patients Departments (OPDs) in the federal capital.

The suggestions included measures to strike a balance between efforts to curb coronavirus and revive economic activities. These will remain in effect until May 31, if approved in Thursday's meeting.

The recommendations also include the opening of phase II of construction sector and the reopening of retail outlets. The participants also proposed that shops should remain open from 9am to 5pm, and then again from 8pm to 10pm.

No changes were made in the SOPs for the religious festivities in the second half of the holy month of Ramazan; the measures will remain the same as previously agreed upon between the government and Ulema.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah Tuesday made it clear that no new corona related code of conduct was being issued for the last 10 days of Ramazan.

The Ulema agree that the Eidul Fitr congregational prayers should be offered in the open spaces instead of inside mosques, he said, adding that if even one person from a neighbourhood attended the Eidul Fitr prayers, it would be as if the entire locality had attended the prayers.

It is requested that minimum number of people should go for Aitkaaf in one mosque, he said. He said wealthy people wished the lockdown to linger on while those facing poverty and hunger wanted it to be eased. "It is likely that further relaxations in the lockdown will be announced tomorrow," he said.