LAHORE: Prime Minister Imran Khan has reiterated that a complete lockdown devastates the economy and pushes a large segment of the population below the poverty line, posing bigger challenges of hunger and survival — something India is facing right now.
“So a complete lockdown is no option, but stringent measures, including selective lockdowns, will be adopted to stop the spread of coronavirus from hotspots,” said Mr Khan in an address aired by PTV from the Punjab chief minister’s secretariat after a meeting with his team in the province on Saturday.
Now, the prime minister stressed, no one would be allowed to visit any public place without a face mask. Masks could slow down the spread of the virus by 50 per cent, he added.
Although the World Health Organisation had asked the Punjab government to impose a two-week complete lockdown besides the Punjab government’s own proposal about it earlier in May, the premier asserted that the lockdown led to collapse of the economy. He cited the example of New York, which went bankrupt due to the lockdown following a massive number of deaths.
PM says Tiger Force will be given an app to identify business, residential areas not complying with SOPs
Mr Khan said the lockdown imposed in Pakistan had shown devastating effect on the economy and added, “We faced serious problems while putting up the budget for the financial year 2020-21.”
Citing the example of India, he said the neighbouring country imposed a complete lockdown and was now facing a challenge of feeding around 34pc of its population, which was facing a threat of starvation.
Mr Khan said he himself and the whole government machinery continued educating people about following standard operating procedures (SOPs) so that economic activities could be revived simultaneously. Regretfully, he said, people did not follow the simple SOPs despite warnings that carelessness would not only endanger the lives of elderly and sick people, but also stop economic activity and land the masses into severe financial crisis.
Saying that he had reviewed the situation on ground in Punjab, particularly in Lahore, with his team in the province, the prime minister announced that the government could not depend on the public anymore for implementation of the SOPs and felt compelled to take stringent measures. “The government will now identify hotspots of coronavirus and ensure compliance with SOPs through the administration and police as well as the Tiger Force,” he explained.
“Tiger Force volunteers will be given a technologically advanced app and asked to identify business and residential localities not complying with the SOPs, while the administration and police of respective districts will take prompt action,” he said.
He said any workplace, business hub or residential locality found violating the SOPs would be locked down.
Mr Khan said he would personally visit all the provinces and monitor compliance with SOPs from a cell set up at the prime minister’s secretariat and inform the provinces about measures for compliance accordingly.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Usman Dar said the government had experimented with the SOPs compliance in mosques during Ramazan through the Tiger Force and would now go for the larger task of ensuring that everyone complied with them. “Tiger Force volunteers will be asked to use an app to take pictures of SOPs’ violation and send them to the district administration and police for strong action,” he added.
Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid told the PM that the provincial government had 10,000 beds available for coronavirus patients while 3,055 beds had been occupied by such patients.
Dr Rashid said that the matter of allowing the Roche company to import Actemra injections from the US had been resolved as Japan was not fulfilling the demand. “This is a trial drug and no one should use it without the expert advice of doctors concerned,” she warned.
Prime Minister Khan directed the authorities to complete arrangements to hold local government elections so that the local bodies served people at their doorsteps. He was given a briefing on the local bodies system at the chief minister’s secretariat.
The Provincial Disaster Management Authority director general briefed the PM about the measures being taken to eliminate locusts from Punjab, and claimed that the attacks had been largely controlled.
PM Khan also visited the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme centre and inspected the transfer of cash to the needy.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister Dr Sania Nishtar told him that 1.3 million people had so far been provided cash assistance from the Prime Minister’s Covid-19 Fund.
Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2020