Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday announced further easing of lockdown measures across the country, even as he appealed the nation to adopt standard operating procedures (SOPs) and other precautionary measures to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
He was addressing the nation after a meeting of the National Coordination Committee (NCC).
“I want to request all of you [the nation] to follow the SOPs we have outlined to prevent the spread of this virus. If we don’t take precautions then we will continue to suffer,” Khan warned, as he 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.
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.
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.