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July 28, 2020

Punjab reapplies smart lockdown

Top Story

July 28, 2020

Punjab reapplies smart lockdown

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: Prime Minister Imran Khan Monday said owing to all the measures the government had taken, Pakistan was today one of the few countries that had overcome the coronavirus.

Addressing the media here, he said by the grace and blessings of Allah Almighty, the number of coronavirus cases in Pakistan had come down drastically and that pressure on the hospitals had eased and the number of patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICUs) had come down.

The prime minister, however, cautioned that ‘we have challenges ahead and we need to be more careful’. “These are the challenges ahead for us and we have to be more careful. What were the challenges when we imposed a lockdown in March? What steps did we take and how were the difficult times? It is a blessing of Allah that the number of cases in Pakistan has come down drastically”.

He said today, after three months, Pakistan had the lowest number of cases and in the last three days, the country had witnessed the lowest number of deaths. He went on to say that the coronavirus first started in China and then spread to Europe, so people were sitting here and watching Europe, and the way things were being done in Europe, we were under the same pressure here: ‘Do what Europe is doing’.

Imran Khan said in the beginning ‘we tried to do the same, imposed lockdown, our government realized that there is a big difference between our situation and that of Europe and as well as different as compared to China’s Wuhan.’

“We were the first government to realise that when there is poverty in the country, where people live in slums and there is no record of 70 to 80 per cent labour, then our point of view is different from China and Europe.”

Imran Khan said that he was happy that when we consulted with his team and the world understood those things later, such as smart lockdown, our government first talked about smart lockdown.

He said, “We have learned that if you impose strict lockdowns and curfews, remember that it is very difficult to impose curfews in a country where 7 to 8 people live in one room in slums, neighborhoods. And if you lock down there, it won't happen”.

The prime minister said there is a class living in these areas that if they do not work, how they will feed their children. We knew that if they were locked up at home, they would starve to death and that is what happened. That is how lockdown was imposed in India and even today, there are effects that poverty has increased, hunger has increased.

“It is difficult to have such a lockdown. There can be a lockdown in rich and prosperous areas. If there is a lockdown, I can live in my house very comfortably. We also have money to spend, but in areas where there is no money, there are day laborers, it is more difficult where more people are living in a limited space. The world today is realizing that a complete lockdown is impossible,” he maintained.

He said when we came to smart lockdown, we decided that no restrictions would be imposed on the agricultural sector so that food supply would not be affected. “When we started opening up the economy, we made a lot of decisions at this difficult time. When we opened up the construction sector, people were very critical that we were endangering people's lives,” he said.

“We were watching what was happening in Europe, thousands of people were dying every day. It was a risk, but we also had to save people from starving to death. We made the decision at our own risk and today I can say that the decision was right,” he said.

The prime minister said that the poorest section was affected by the lockdown so to save them we started the Ehsaas program and in a very short time set an example of transparently disbursing money to so many people in such a large program.

He noted that through this program the weaker section escaped from the difficulties that India is suffering from today but because of this smart lockdown was also implemented and 2,300 places were locked which was also effective.

He said everyone should understand that the world is still learning and understanding about coronavirus; its vaccine has not been developed yet, but they could not understand it because strange statistics are coming from different countries.

He added that the world could not even understand what had happened in Pakistan, as the number of cases in India was increasing rapidly and decreasing here.

The prime minister said the world had also come to know that if the number of cases was coming down and proper precautionary measures were not taken, then it might increase again, for example, the city of Melbourne in Australia is witnessing rise in cases again and Spain also and Iran also has a similar situation now.

The prime minister appealed to the people to understand that if care is not taken during Eidul Azha and Muharram ul Harram, the cases of coronavirus might increase again, which will harm the national economy.

“We don't want to be ungrateful to Allah for His blessings, as we did and what happened after Eidul Fitr is that not being careful had led to a sudden increase in cases, increased pressure on hospitals, affecting our doctors, nurses and front line workers and some even died too.

The prime minister said caution should be exercised during Eidul Azha and Muharram-ul-Harram, as the number of cases and deaths is decreasing and people should not be careless. He said that our economy is moving in the right direction and carelessness will harm it so everyone should take responsibility individually during Eidul Azha and Muharram.

He said the easiest thing that had made the biggest difference was to wear a mask. He urged the administration, the Tiger Force, shopkeepers and businessmen to wear masks. He noted that it had been proven in the world that the mask prevents the spread of corona virus the most.

The prime minister said they should try to offer sacrifices online on this Eidul Azha. Imran Khan said if people want to go to the cattle markets, they should wear masks and follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs).

He said if the Eid and Muharram passed successfully, then we have to open various departments, restaurants, wedding halls, services sector, tourism and the educational institutions with SOPs based on good results.

Meanwhile, in a bid to control increase in coronavirus cases, the Punjab government has extended complete/ partial closure of several businesses ahead of Eidul Azha for the next nine days, ending Aug 5.

As per a notification issued by Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department under the Punjab Infectious Diseases (Prevention and Control) Ordinance 2020 here on Monday, complete/partial closure of markets would start on Tuesday 28, 2020 at 12am and continue till Aug 5, 2020 12am.

The fully closed businesses include all educational and training institutes, marriage halls, business centres, expo halls, restaurants (except for takeaway and home delivery), theme/ amusement parks, public parks, play areas and arcades, beauty parlours and spa, cinema and theatres.

There would be a complete ban on sporting tournaments/ matches (indoor or outdoor) except non-contact professional sports without spectators while all sports and indoor sports clubs/ facilities would remain closed.

The notification said there would also be a complete ban on gatherings of all kinds for social, religious or any other purpose at any place, public or private. It added that all retail shops, markets, shopping malls and plazas would remain closed except for exempted ones.

The exempted businesses, which could operate 24 hours a day include all medical services and pharmacies, medical stores, tire puncture shops, atta chakkies, postal/ courier services, driver hotels, petrol pumps, oil depots, LPG outlets and filling plants, agriculture machinery workshops and spare-parts shops, printing press, call centres (with 50% staff and no public dealing), takeaway/ home delivery from restaurants.

The notification added that grocery stores, bakeries and karyana stores, fruit and vegetable shops, chicken, meat and milk shops would be opened at 6am till 12am. The notification allowed movement of all inter-city and inter-district public transport to ply on roads 24 hours a day.

The order would remain in force in entire Punjab with effect from Monday midnight 12am [July 28, 2020] till 12am Wednesday midnight, [Aug 5, 2020] unless modified otherwise.

Meanwhile, Punjab Minister for Law, Parliamentary Affairs and Social Welfare Raja Basharat said the provincial government had decided to carry out a complete lockdown across Punjab from Monday midnight.

“The purpose of the lockdown is that we are close to defeating COVID-19 and the number of coronavirus cases should not increase again.” He was addressing an anti-corona meeting of the cabinet committee, held at the Chief Minister's House under his chairmanship here on Monday.

Provincial ministers Dr Yasmin Rashid, Mian Aslam Iqbal and Fayyazul Hassan Chohan, and officer were also present. He warned that stern action would be taken against those who were causing artificial inflation on the occasion of Eid. "Ensure implementation of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for Eidul Azha prayers and sacrificial gatherings." He said that after Eid, the NCOC meeting would be recommended for the opening of restaurants and hotels.