LAHORE: Following the federal government’s announcement to relax lockdown, the Punjab government has decided to open its offices from Wednesday (today). However, restrictions imposed on public gatherings, congregations, public transport and the opening of educational institutions would remain in place for another two weeks.
A notification issued on Tuesday showed that all the administrative departments to the extent of offices of administrative secretaries (and additional chief secretaries where applicable) will start functioning from today. It indicates that the remaining staff would continue to work online from home as already directed by the government.
An official of the Punjab government told The Express Tribune that the provincial government will implement all the decisions of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) meeting in letter and spirit. He highlighted that all provinces expressed their consensus in the NCC meeting on the opening of the construction sector as it was the biggest job provider in the country after agriculture.
He pointed out that small businesses such as barber shops, electricians, plumbers, stationery stores and other small trades will be allowed to open while observing social distancing measures adopted to contain the spread of coronavirus.
The government has also allowed chemical manufacturing plants, construction firms, e-commerce for export and essential e-commerce locally, software development firms, paper and packaging, mining, fertilizer plants, laundry services, industries that have labour on their premises, nurseries, agricultural machinery units and glass manufacturing units to open.
He pointed out that the government has made this decision following thorough deliberations because the construction sector has the lowest risk factor of spreading the coronavirus disease. However, precautions are still necessary to avoid this highly contagious disease.
Meanwhile, a traders’ delegation met Punjab Law Minister Muhammad Basharat Raja to highlight their problems owing to prolonged lockdown in the province.
Traders’ leaders told the minister that small traders, shopkeepers, their workers and labourers associated with trade were facing serious hardships owing to the lockdown. Traders’ leaders assured their full cooperation to the government. Raja also assured the trading community that the government will accept their legitimate demands and extend all possible cooperation. He highlighted that the government had already allowed opening of food businesses and industries, medicine factories and pharmacies to avoid scarcity of essentials.
The meeting was attended by the Punjab additional chief secretary (home), Lahore division commissioner, DIG police (operations) and Lahore deputy commissioner. Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Irfan Iqbal Sheikh, Anjuman Tajiran office-bearers Mujahid Maqsood Butt, Mahboob Sarki and Malik Khalid represented business and trade community in the meeting.
To review the impact of coronavirus, Punjab Chief Secretary Major (redt) Azam Suleman Khan has directed the officers to prepare lists of industrial labourers rendered jobless by the lockdown in the province.
He issued these directions while addressing a meeting held to review the situation caused by coronavirus in the province. The chief secretary said the government was fully aware of the financial problems being faced by daily wagers due to coronavirus, and taking concrete measures to provide relief to them. He mentioned that under the Prime Minister’s Ehsaas Programme distribution of financial aid among deserving persons is underway in the province.
He said the best healthcare for coronavirus patients as well as protective gear for doctors and paramedics is being provided. He said the transportation of wheat and pulses by licenced dealers and PASSCO was not stopped to ensure uninterrupted supply of the commodities in the province. The CS said farmers would be given all possible facilities during wheat harvest and procurement campaign.
The meeting was told that arrangements have been completed in Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan and Rawalpindi in connection with the arrival of passengers from abroad.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2020.