ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday said all businesses, including marriage halls, restaurants, educational institutions as well as those associated with the tourism sector, might reopen if the present trend of low Covid-19 cases persisted throughout Muharram.
Addressing the nation, Prime Minister Khan urged citizens to continue taking precautionary measures during Eidul Azha and Muharram to prevent a spike in novel coronavirus cases as was seen soon after Eidul Fitr.
“Be careful. If we pass Eid and Muharram with caution, there are chances that all closed businesses might reopen,” the prime minister said.
The country cannot afford another surge in cases as it will hit the country’s economy hard and also affect those in the vulnerable age group, Prime Minister Khan said, urging people to observe their animal sacrifice ritual online and follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs) if they had to visit the animal market.
“I urge people to go for online Qurbani and avoid visiting animal markets,” he said, adding that in case people do visit these markets, they must adopt all SOPs and wear masks.
“Opt for online sacrifice of animals to avoid gatherings in a bid to control mass spread of the virus,” he added.
He also advised shopkeepers and customers against violating the SOPs, asking them to observe social distancing during shopping and not to adopt the same careless approach they did during Eidul Fitr two months ago.
“If we are not cautious during Eid and Muharram, cases might rise again and the situation can worsen. Allah Almighty has blessed our country as the number of cases is declining,” he said in his address.
“If we are not careful, it could prove dangerous for our economy and for the aged and ailing people,” he added.
The prime minister gave the example of Australia and Spain where the virus cases had jumped again after initially falling.
“I appeal to everyone not to be complacent about Covid-19; adopt safety measures and do not risk the lives of the elderly and patients,” he added.
The prime minister took the credit of going for smart lockdown, saying his government was the first in the world to follow this policy, later adopted by other countries.
“Our government was the first to introduce smart lockdown in March instead of the strict curfew-like measures imposed in India, Europe and China,” the prime minister added.
”Despite pressures and criticism by various segments of the society, the government preferred the smart lockdown instead of complete closure as it had realised that Pakistan’s situation was nothing compared to that of Europe and China. We had to save our people both from coronavirus and starvation,” he said.
The prime minister said since Pakistan was faced with challenges like poverty, slum population, and informal and unregistered labour, smart lockdown was the best option to maintain a balance that allowed the poor and daily-wage labourers to earn their livelihood under the cover of safety SOPs.
He said his government took pride in launching the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme through which an unprecedented number of deserving people was given financial assistance after necessary verification from Nadra in a short span of time.
The prime minister lauded his team for giving its best during the difficult situation, adding that construction and agriculture sectors were opened to boost the economy during the crisis.
Later, in a separate meeting, the prime minister was apprised of the food supply situation in the country, especially about wheat and flour. He was informed that permission had been given to import 1.5 million tonnes of wheat to meet the local demand.
Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2020