LAHORE: Under mounting pressure of the business and trade community, Punjab government has decided to further ease the lockdown ahead of Eidul Fitr, but with strict implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) devised to maintain social distancing to avoid further spread of the coronavirus disease.
Punjab Governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar highlighted on Tuesday that the government is planning to further reduce restrictions imposed under the lockdown to mitigating miseries of the poor and daily wage earners. Owing to prolonged lockdown, hunger has started posing a big threat to the people, he said.
Addressing the inaugural ceremony of a water filtration plant at Lahore Press Club, the governor pointed out that there were reports that the coronavirus infection incidences might rise following end of the current lockdown period on May 9.
Sarwar said the government had introduced “smart lockdown” to save the business community and small traders from further economic meltdown.
He stressed that easing of restrictions in lockdown must not be considered as indicating that the pandemic had subsided. War against coronavirus cannot be won on roads but by staying at homes, he added.
He underscored that unmindful movement of people on roads, bazaars and streets would massively increase the threat of virus spread. The government and doctors are urging people to stay at home and do not go out to invite coronavirus to their homes to infect their loved ones.
Responding to a question, the governor said thousands of people were facing life threat in the wake of coronavirus and on the other hand the country was facing an economic crisis. In these hard times, he said, the nation would not forgive those trying to misguide them, and would hold them accountable at an appropriate time. People of Pakistan fully knew who was serving them and who was merely raising hollow slogans, he said. He said people would hold accountable all those who would make promises but fail to fulfil them.
He said the government had taken elaborate measures to offer financial assistance to poor people but the government could not defeat the coronavirus pandemic single-handedly. He highlighted the poor were being provided ration through the Rescue 1122 service.
Meanwhile, business community leaders told their problems to the Punjab Minister for Industries Mian Aslam Iqbal. Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) President Mian Anjum Nisar highlighted drastic effects of coronavirus pandemic on Pakistan IPL economy and its aftermath on domestic trade and industry.
He underlined that the business community of the country is unable to bear the losses resulting from the lockdown. He said 44 days of lockdown had crippled the economy. Continued shutdown of industries and their supply chain was pressing issue that the business community was facing. There is a dire need of providing SOPs which are compatible with all sectors, especially trade and manufacturing, he maintained.
He added the rate of mortality due to road accidents is higher than coronavirus victims in the country. Pakistan is in a major economic crisis as the domestic cycle and exports both are suspended. Traders are under severe stress, as they are on the verge of bankruptcy due to the prolonged lockdown and suspension of trade activities, the business leaders stressed. They also referred to resumption of businesses in the US, Italy, Spain, Germany and other countries.
Responding to business community’s concerns, the provincial minister said the government desires to open business activities but any mistake or hasty decision could prove dangerous. The whole world is being affected by the pandemic but Pakistan has coped with it with very few resources. “We have increased the facility of tests from 150 per day to 6,000 to 7,000. Measurers are being taken for the prevention of coronavirus,” he said and highlighted that the provincial government has already forwarded its recommendations for easing lockdown to Islamabad. All decisions to relax lockdown will be announced after deliberations with Prime Minister Imran Khan in the next couple of days, he said
Published in The Express Tribune, May 6th, 2020.