ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that the country’s economy could not bear the impact of a longer lockdown, advising the citizen to follow the Standard Operations Procedures (SOPs) to limit the spread of the COVID-19.
In a televised address, PM Imran appraised the nation on the decisions made regarding the lockdown in the country to control the novel COVID-19 during the National Coordination Committee (NCC) meeting held today.
The Prime minister said country’s economy could not bear the impact of a longer lockdown, adding that it is batter to ease lockdown and open more businesses.
Noting that the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) met every morning and consulted everyone, including doctors from Pakistan and around the globe, on every step, PM Imran spoke of the country’s response and the current situation regarding the COVID-19.
He said “Since day one when we got to know that the COVID-19 had started spreading in Pakistan, we imposed a lockdown following a national security committee meeting.
The Prime minister said “Pakistan’s situation is different than that in China or Europe,” he said, noting that he had earlier informed the nation that 25% of the country’s population was below the poverty line, which “means that nearly 50 million people in our country do not eat two full meals a day”.
“After doing calculations, we figured out that there are 25 million people who are daily wagers and who get paid weekly and whose households had to remain hungry if they did not earn for one day,” he added.
The labourers and daily-wagers, he added, were part of the informal, unregistered economy. He said “The COVID-19 spreads at a fast pace and imposing lockdown is not the cure to it… It only slows the spread of the virus. The lockdown helped reduce pressure on doctors and health workers in hospitals.”
“Some 30-35% people in Karachi live in katchi abadis [slums]. What effect would the lockdown have had on them? On the one hand, we had the wealthy elite, whose attitude was completely different and who were demanding lockdown because there was a lockdown in Europe.
“On the other hand, we had the poor people and households where seven, eight or 10 people live in one room, the taxi- and rickshaw-drivers, the daily-wagers.
PM said “I did not want a lockdown like the one that was imposed in Pakistan [but] due to the 18th Amendment, the provinces had the authority and took their own decisions due to pressure”.
“I would not have stopped business and construction as we had to balance the situation. COVID-19 is not going away unless until a vaccine is not formulated,” he added.
He said doctors, elite, and the poor all had diverse opinions but it was the downtrodden ones of the society who did not have a voice.
“America — which has given a stimulus of $3,000 billion — has also decided to lift the lockdown as their economy would collapse because there is no guarantee that the virus will go away if a lockdown persists,” he said.
He observed “If people take protective steps, we can tackle the situation. If we close specific areas, then the businesses of those areas will be affected.”
PM Khan mentioned that the government had prepared a negative list, which “will be shared later in the day as a debate is being held over the resumption of tourism”.
“Several places only earn in three to four months of summers and if we do not open the tourism [industry], people will be adversely affected due to no income,” the premier said, noting that the governments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan were mulling over it.
Citing the example of India, he said the lockdown had caused adversities there and people were forced into extreme poverty.
“They have also lifted their lockdown as their economy cannot bear it anymore,” he said. “I want the medical fraternity to know that there are millions who have been affected by the lockdown.
PM said, “We are not in a state to extend the lockdown as it has had an adverse effect our economy. Our exports have plunged and we fear that our remittances might fall as well”.
PM Imran said that he was constantly against lockdowns, adding that if it were up to him, he never would have imposed a lockdown in the country. PM added that lockdowns were not a “therapy” for the COVID-19.