Pakistan has decided to lift its coronavirus lockdown on May 9 (Saturday), announced PM Imran Khan on Thursday.
"We have decided to do this in phases because many people are facing a lot of difficulties and we cannot continue with it," he said while speaking to the media after a meeting of the National Coordination Committee.
"We are a developing country and we can't afford to keep the country shut for much longer," he remarked. "Our exports have fallen. We already had limited funds and we spent it on people's welfare. We can't help all of those affected by the lockdown."
The premier requested the nation to follow the SOPs put in place by the government. The police can't make sure that everyone is following them so please act responsibly. "You have to work with the government".
We have to be intelligent about lifting the lockdown. There is a danger that the number of coronavirus cases may spike so please follow the government's instructions and help us overcome this, he added. "The Tiger Force will be there to guide you and tell you what to do."
The premier even said that public transport should be opened too. "We want to make the lives of people easier." People won't be using public transport for tourist purposes, they use it to go to their jobs or look for employment opportunities. The provinces, however, have raised reservations over opening public transport so it will remain shut on their request.
More than 100,000 Pakistanis are stranded in other countries, said PM Khan. "When special flights bring them back, they are first tested and then shifted to a quarantine centre." Now, it is important to realise that the country does not have the capacity to keep all of them in quarantine. If they are returning, then they must practice self-quarantine.
Sindh and Balochistan went into lockdown on March 23 while Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa followed suit a day later.
- The government has decided to open all sectors related to the construction industry.
- Steel and Aluminium shops and manufacturing units will be opened too.
- Schools to remain closed till July 15.
- All board exams have been cancelled and students will be promoted based on their last year's results.
- Markets to open five days a week and they will stay closed on Saturday and Sunday. They will remain open till 5pm.
- Airport and railway operations to remain suspended.
- All wedding halls will remain closed.
'Human life or economy?'
Many people have asked us if we think the economy is more important human lives, remarked Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Minister Asad Umar. "I just want to say that all the decisions made by the PM have been made after thinking about their effect on the lives of the people."
It is really sad that blue-collar workers who lost their jobs are now using their savings to just buy food. They were saving up for their children's education or marriage but they don't even have those savings now, he added.
Coronavirus is there in every country but it has spread differently everywhere, said Dr Faisal Sultan, PM's focal person on COVID-19. More people have been killed in the US because of coronavirus than they were in the Vietnam War.
The number of cases in Pakistan is increasing every day and it is because our testing capacity has increased, he said, adding that the spread of the virus is very different here than our neighbouring countries. "This doesn't mean that our struggle has ended. We review the data every day and analyse our situation."
We have gotten a chance to strengthen our health care system and get training, he said. "We are hopeful that just by exercising social distancing and taking precautionary measures we can tackle the virus," Dr Sultan added.