LAHORE: The Punjab government plans easing of the lockdown restrictions by allowing various businesses, industries and small markets to open five days a week from May 9 amidst looming threat of a rapid spread of coronavirus in the province, especially its main cities.
The government, however, has plans to keep the lockdown relatively tight in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala and Gujrat for being hotspots of the virus in Punjab.
Lahore alone has recorded some 38.43 per cent of total confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Punjab till Thursday evening.
Sources say the random sampling of media houses employees has also shown alarming results.
Despite a surge in the confirmed cases and death toll of the disease, Punjab, in consultation with the federal government, has decided to ease the lockdown restrictions.
The federal government, the sources told Dawn, has allowed the Punjab government to take district-wise decision to impose ‘smart lockdown’ according to their virus spread situation.
As the provincial governments are free to take decisions as per their local situation of virus spread, the sources say a suggestion was discussed in the chief minister’s secretariat about extending the ongoing lockdown for another week in Lahore.
However, the growing concerns of daily wagers, and small traders regarding their livelihood has compelled the federal government wanted the provinces should ease the lockdown restrictions so that wheel of economy started moving.
Upcoming Eidul Fitr is also a major factor that pushed the government to allow opening of small markets for shopping.
The chief minister says permission to resume business will be granted to more industries and businesses, including pipe mills, ceramics, sanitary wares, paints, electrical cables, switch boards, steel, aluminum, hardware, besides small markets and shops across the province.
The small markets and shops will remain open from Fajar till 5pm. These businesses will be allowed to run five days a week and remain closed on Saturday and Sunday.
Practically, the officials concerned say, the businesses will open from May 11 (Monday).
The two-day restriction, Mr Buzdar says, will not be applied to the already opened pharmacies, medical stores, milk shops, grocery stores, tandoors, bakeries and other shops.
Hospitals’ OPDs will also opened for the public to seek medical advice for different ailments.
In line with the federal government decision, Chief Minister Usman Buzdar said it had been decided with consensus that educational institutions would remain closed till July 15 and examinations of boards stood cancelled.
The students’ promotions in Grade-X and Grade-XII would be decided on the basis of their previous results. The intermediate students will be able to seek admission to universities on the basis of their Grade-XI results.
While Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar and Chief Minister Usman Buzdar are crying hoarse that people should act responsibly and stay home to minimise virus spread, officals in the chief minister secretariat feared that easing of lockdown restrictions might result in a massive surge in cases.
The governor has warned, “There is no room for any mistake”.
The chief minister has also urged the masses to fully cooperate with the government in easing the lockdown. He warned that those not following the SOPs strictly could become virus victims themselves.
Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2020